Monday, July 26, 2021

The U.S. government on Thursday toughened the requirements for entering this country from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Sudan for citizens of the 38 countries belonging to the Visa Waiver Program, though the new guidelines make allowances for journalists, aid workers and members of international organizations.

The increased requirements come as a law Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed in December obligating citizens of the 38 VWP countries to request a visa to enter the United States if they have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria in the last five years.

The law also affects citizens who hold Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian or Sudanese nationality along with being citizens of any of the mainly-European VWP nations.

The exceptions to the law benefit reporters, people who travel to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria for humanitarian aid purposes and members of international, regional or governmental organizations who are on official missions.

Also benefiting from the exceptions are individuals who have traveled to Iraq or Iran for "legitimate" business purposes, the government said.

The exceptions do not apply to people with dual Iraqi, Syrian, Iranian or Sudanese nationality.

In general, the VWP allows people to travel to the United States without a visa on business- or tourism-oriented trips not greater than 90 days and affects some 20 million people each year.

With the change, the Obama administration is trying to make entry into this country more difficult for Europeans who have fought in the ranks of the Islamic State.

The recruitment of Western citizens to fight for the IS has become one of Washington's main concerns, especially since the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed, and the massacre in San Bernardino, California, in December that took 14 lives.