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VWP Updates Affecting Cuba, Hungary & Israel

VWP Updates Affecting Cuba, Hungary & Israel

New guidance on the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has been issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in respect of Hungary, Cuba and Israel.

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of certain countries to enter the US for up to 90 days for business or tourism without a visa. Foreign nationals must apply for authorization to use the VWP through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Hungary

Due to security concerns of the State Department in relation to the misuse of Hungarian passports, Hungarian passport holders will only be permitted to enter the United States on a single ESTA visa waiver screening per year. This is a stricter requirement than that of nationals of other visa-exempt nations, who may enter the United States multiple times during the two-year ESTA authorization period.

 

Israel

Israel continues to make steps towards qualifying for the Visa Waiver Program. Israel’s visa refusal rate has fallen below 3%, which is a key requirement to qualify for the VWP.

In addition, in respect of restrictions of the entry of Palestinian-American travellers, the Israeli Government announced changes to its short-term entry-and-transit-through-Israel policy on July 20, 2023. The new policy permits US citizens “without regard to national origin, dual nationality, ethnicity, or religion, including Palestinian Americans on the Palestinian population registry, to travel to and from Israel via all ports of entry, including Ben Gurion Airport.

Where these requirements are shown to be consistently met, Israel is expected to be invited to join the VWP.

Cuba

Cuban passport holders are not eligible to travel to the US visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program.

Following Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in January 2021, anyone who has been present in Cuba on or after January 12, 2021 – including both Cuban nationals and non-Cubans – are ineligible for visa-waiver travel.

The ESTA application form questions were updated in 2023 to capture details of applicants’ previous travel to Cuba. As a result, travelers with existing ESTA approval may have their authorization revoked based on their travel history.

In addition, those with dual nationality with Cuba are also affected by the restricted visa waiver eligibility.

Travelers who are no longer eligible for ESTA due to previous travel to Cuba or due to dual Cuban nationality, should instead apply for the B visitor visa to request permission to travel to the US.

If you have any questions or require specialist advice on the US visa waiver program and ESTA eligibility, contact our US immigration attorneys.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Nita Nicole Upadhye is the Founder & Principal Attorney at NNU Immigration. A recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys. 

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.