(UPDATED/CORRECTION) Draft Executive Order Would Require UK and Australia Citizens to Interview at US Embassies Before Coming to America

Update: The LA Times story that spread around the world turns out to be #FakeNews or at least inaccurate. The draft executive order would end the he Visa Waiver Interview Program that deals with visa renewals and not the Visa Waiver Program.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting on a draft executive order that would suspend the US Visa Waiver program.

  • Citizens of 38 countries apply online for entry to the US for up to 90 days
  • The ESTA is in lieu of a formal visa, which requires an interview
  • Suspending this program would require visitors to the US to obtain the formal visa instead, scheduling US embassy interviews

To be clear, this is a draft executive order not something that has been signed. The final form of the order could be substantially different. But it at a minimum reflects at least some of the thinking within the current US administration.

As the LA Times reports,

It would suspend the visa waiver program — widely used by citizens from 38 countries, including most European countries, Australia, Japan and Chile — which grants citizens of those countries a 90-day tourist visa after they submit their biographical information to a screening check. The new policy would require in-person interviews for most citizens from those countries.

The draft order states,

The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act), which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa, undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions

The affected countries are:

Interestingly, Taiwan is considered a separate country for the purposes of the Visa Waiver Program despite the US One China Policy.

Under the proposed rules, Norwegians, Brits, and Aussies will have to schedule and attend interviews before being permitted to come to the US. That would be the case for vacation, and for business. That’s sure to limit the amount of international business US companies can do, and limit the goods US companies can sell abroad. In addition to being simply ludicrous.

Even these draft rules are already getting media attention in Australia.

The suggestion alone can share off visitors, who face an opaque process and merely have the sense that it’s overly burdensome and costly to come to the US for leisure or to do great business deals (the best deals). A big beautiful wall between the US and Australia will harm airlines, hotels here in the US, airport revenue and of course US attractions that rely on tourists generally.

Who’s going to come to America under these terms?

My guess however is that this proposal will not happen. I suspect it was leaked by someone who thinks that the idea is insane and wants to ensure backlash with enough time that the administration can dismiss it as merely a suggestion that had been under discussion or a draft by a low level staffer.

It also could be an initial gambit to make any final move look moderate by comparison, or to show deliberation on restrictions that aren’t limited to specific religions.

However I also did not predict the outcome of the Presidential election, so evaluate such a prediction as you will.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “I suspect it was leaked by someone who thinks that the idea is insane and wants to ensure backlash with enough time that the administration can dismiss it as merely a suggestion that had been under discussion or a draft by a low level staffer.”

    I wish, but I doubt it

    “It also could be an initial gambit to make any final move look moderate by comparison, or to show deliberation on restrictions that aren’t limited to specific religions.”

    More likely.

    “This administration has no earthly idea what they’re doing or how they got there, so their MO is to just throw some Trump at the wall and see what sticks.”

    Fixed it.

  2. Generally speaking, the Visa process is usually reciprocal. If I as a citizen if country “A” am required to have a visa to visit country “B”, the Country “B” will require citizens of country “A” to obtain a visa also

    It will be interesting to see if the Trump administration goes ahead with this folly, and the other 38 countries within the ESTA programme start requiring citizens of the US to undergo the exact same process

  3. Wait a sec. The Visa Waiver Program and the Visa Interview Waiver Program are NOT the same. The latter would be suspended, not the former.

  4. Apologies for the confusion but this line should read

    If I as a citizen if country “A” am required to have a visa to visit country “B”, then Country “A” will require citizens of country “B” to obtain a visa also

  5. We need to suspend the visa waiver program – too many illegal folks are coming in from Liechtenstein, Andorra and Brunei as it is. And then there are the Maltese illegally sneaking into Atlanta trying to take jobs from the Falcons.

  6. The LA Times article appears to be a mis-reading of the draft; it proposes suspending the Visa _Interview_ Waiver Program, which is a very different process. The Interview Waiver Program is the one that makes it so foreign visitors on extended stays (e.g. H1-B) don’t have to fly back to their home country for an interview to renew their visa.

    Not that I think any of this is a good idea (and I made the same error on my initial reading earlier today), but no need to hype things to be even worse than they are. Tourists from European countries are still safe.

  7. I am fairly certain this article is wrong. The Visa Interview Waiver Program and the Visa Waiver Program are (confusingly) two different things. They are proposing to end the Visa Interview Waiver Program, not the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Interview Waiver Program allows people who are coming from a country that does NOT fall under the Visa Waiver Program but who have received a visa before to get a renewal of that same visa type without being subjected to an interview. Here’s the page for Ethiopia, as an example: https://ethiopia.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant_visas/interview-waiver-program.html

  8. To Mr. Gary Leff, owner “View from the LEFT Wing”
    OK, so you intensely disliked him as a candidate, reviled him as the President – Elect, and absolutely despise him as our Commander-in-Chief.

    You don’t even have a hidden agenda – you are still using your travel blog as a political crying towel since you so ardently supported Hillary and still like half the country, are never going to be over it nor give President Donald Trump half a chance.

    This entire piece is nothing more than an attempt to inflame negative passions with absolutely no basis in reality – it’s “leaked” and it’s pure BS

    Why don’t you change your name from Leff to LEFT already and while you’re at it take me off all your mailing lists.
    Don’t worry.
    The same regurgitated identical material is available from many or other sources that don’t politicize and on a daily basis

  9. Unable to completely destroy modernity with their idiot icon Bush who permanently destroyed our reputation in the world, destroyed the economy and nearly toppled the world financial system, rednecks now intend to finish the job with their deranged Pumpkinhead in a fat suit.

  10. That would mean also that all Americans visiting Europe would need the same . if a country is changing the travel rules the visa rules starts also in the other direction, I don’t think this will come, to many $$£¥$$

  11. I think your headline is very misleading.

    The united kingdom and Australia are both anti-democratic and anti-republican states — they are both ruled by a queen, Elizabeth II. (Before anyone goes berserk on me, recall that this same tyrant dismissed the person the people of Australia elected to lead them in the 1970s and replaced him with her appointed royal governor.).

    I believe that when our country is being infiltrated by subjects of inherently anti-democratic an anti-republican countries, we should do appropriate vetting.

    But your headline obscures the point, if they are talking about 38 countries — some of those are free and independent republics, where the authority to govern is derived from the consent of the people, such as the Republic of Ireland, the Italian Republic, and the republic of France. These are people whom we should welcome into our country, our trusted allies.

    But, as a drafty draft document, I don’t think this anything to get worked up about anyway.

  12. Hey Loonie Lesker-

    Trump’s losing popular vote share equals Less than 25% of eligible voters, not half. Gary also reported facts, which tend to make Trumpsters chew their leg off in public.

  13. First off, @AlohaDaveKennedy is the only sane voice in these comments. You sir, are a true Patriot.

    Gary- you know there is a difference between deliberately fake news and innacurate news, right?

  14. Doing away with ESTA would voluntarily end my travel to and through the USA, currently 3-4 times a year. Plenty of alternative locations I can vacation and spend my money with no entry hassles whatever.

  15. @ Gary Lesker. You truly are a P.O.S like the narcissistic megalomaniac you clearly voted for. There will be blood on your hands, trust me. This, all of this insanity will not end well. Did you go to school? Did you study history? 1930s Germany and such? Oh… and another thing go F yourself. Thank you.

  16. You should probably take down this article, as it’s grossly misleading and completely inaccurate, as noted in your correction paragraph. Just sayin’.

  17. Ric Garrido too???? Wow, now I know we must be done for. You live in N California? You seem like a decent guy, travel the world, seem to love diversity, Europe etc. Yet, you join in with Alt-right quips against Gary? Disgusting, horrible times and you are part of it. I’m shocked and sickened.

  18. I believe you misunderstood why Ric Garrido found “View from the left” to be so funny. Anyone who knows the first thing about @Gary Leff’s politics would laugh at the notion that he is some lefty or lib. @Gary Leff is a right-winger who deserves credit for seeing “president” Trump the way most of the country should have seen him on November 8 and summarily rejected him: an unqualified, unstable and dangerous egomaniac who belongs in the Nut House rather than in the White House.

  19. 1. It’s abundantly clear that Gary is right wing in his economic attitudes (competition in the travel industry gives that away) and I have no idea about his social attitudes because he doesn’t write about such things.

    2. He was reporting a travel article of huge moment from the LA Times – a sensible source on a topic that is highly relevant to a travel blog.

    3. It turns out the article was mistaken (note the use of the word mistaken, rather than deceitful) and Gary added the correction, albeit rather obscurely as it took me a while to figure out what it meant.

    4. The episode highlights an interesting feature of the early days of Trump’s presidency when, because of his style, all sorts of crazy suggestions are likely to emerge and be believed. This is exacerbated by Trump’s support for some left wing economic policies on protectionism and Keynesianism, such that commentators never know if his latest idea is coming from his extreme right side or his fairly extreme left side.

  20. So Gary posts Fake News, then leaves it up instead of rewriting it after he discovers its fake? Not to mention no apology for posting it in the first place without first finding out if it was Real News.

    This just in, Thought Leader in Travel Gary Leff was arrested yesterday on 37 charges of Pedophilia and is being held without bail.

    Update: It turns out it was someone else named Gary Leff, not the travel blogger. So I’m adding a “correction” to my comment. ;(

  21. @garylesker a. Leff is about as apolitical as it gets.
    b. Didnt hear you say the same to Trump when he was whining about “Birtherism”. Grow a brain. Oh sorry. Youre a Tronald Dup supporter.

  22. Thanks for this piece. God help us!
    I had a wonderful time in the Yucatán over Thanksgicing thanks to your travel advice. One of the best parts of my trip was that all the beautiful Mexican people laughed and commiserated with my husband, teenagers and me about our crazy new leader. My latest almost free trip was to DC for the Women’s March. (Again thanks largely to your travel advice) I can personally affirm that the white flooring on the Mall did not make me or my husband disappear the day before our insane president was sworn in. Very few showed up. I hope all of your readers are protesting at the airports. This is insanity.

  23. Also, the Women’s March was fabulous in that it helped me to feel the determination of inclusive values. It was wonderful in that I felt so much less alone. This man is insane.

  24. You are aware that the EU is threatening to abolish the visa waiver program if the US refuses to include all EU members (Poland, Bulgaria and Romania are still out). They are serious. Poland was promised entry long ago.

    I suspect the above order is ready to go out if some EU citizen of arab descent does a big terrorism incident in the US.

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