In this blog post, we share with you an important announcement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Carrier Liaison Program.
The agency has announced that certain nationals participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), who have been physically present in Cuba, or who are dual nationals of Cuba and a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, will be ineligible to gain admission to the United States using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization also known as ESTA.
According to CBP, beginning January 12, 2021, the Department of State designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, causing the above-mentioned individuals to become ineligible for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
Later, on July 6th the Department of Homeland Security updated its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) online application and mobile application to reflect these changes.
Why has this happened?
The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (“the Act”) makes nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who have been present in a country designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST), as well as those who are dual nationals of both a VWP country and a country designated as an State Sponsor of Terrorism at the time of applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), ineligible for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
Since Cuba has been named a State Sponsor of Terrorism, these restrictions will now be enforced against nationals participating in the VWP program who have been present in Cuba or are dual nations of Cuba and a VWP country.
What if my ESTA has already been approved?
For individuals affected by these restrictions whose ESTA was already approved, the ESTA will be revoked, and the traveler will receive a notification indicating their ESTA status has changed.
Travelers may review their updated status on the ESTA Mobile App or on CBP’s ESTA website.
If my ESTA has been revoked, does this mean that I am barred from traveling to the United States?
No. CBP has emphasized that travel to the United States is not barred for travelers who have been affected by these restrictions. Travelers simply cannot gain admission through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and will instead need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at any U.S. embassy or consulate overseas to gain admission to the United States.
Are any exceptions allowed?
There are limited exceptions. Under the Act, military personnel and government employees are exempted from the VWP travel restrictions based on their presence in Cuba but only if such presence was in order to carry out their official duties for military service in the armed forces of a Visa Waiver Program country or as full-time government employees of a Visa Waiver Program country.
There are no exemptions for presence in Cuba on behalf of international organizations or dual nationality with both a Visa Waiver Program country and Cuba.
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