Is the US about to end the Visa Waiver Programme

Most UK citizens enter the US under a programme  called the Visa Waiver Programme. It exempts British nationals and those from 37 other countries from needing to attend in-person interviews to secure a visa for admission to the USA.

Part of the Executive Order which we are told is likely to be signed by the new US President, removes this as an option. This would require those going to the US to attend an in-person interview at a US Consulate or Embassy.

The section of the order which changes the current arrangements is described by the Los Angeles Times as follows:

The order goes beyond the Muslim world, however, creating new restrictions on visitors from some of America’s closest allies. It would suspend the visa waiver program — used by citizens from 38 countries, including most European countries, Australia, Japan and Chile — that 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 US Embassy web site in London explains the current process here.

The fees are as follows – all non-refundable:

Visa Charges

You must apply online, pay the fee and then attend the interview. Your passport is sent in after a decision is made, and then returned 7-10 days later. Not a short process.

The interview process requires you to take the following documents:

  • Confirmation page of the application form DS-160;
  • Appointment confirmation page (if relevant);
  • A passport or other travel document:  Your passport or travel document must be valid for at least six months beyond your stay in the United States and contain at least one blank page. The six-month requirement does not apply to United Kingdom passports. For other nationalities, please click here. (PDF – 57 KB).  If your passport is damaged, we recommend that you obtain a new passport before applying for the visa to avoid any delay in the processing of your application;
  • One 5 x 5 cm (2” by 2”) color photograph taken within the last six months: If you have successfully uploaded a photograph to the DS-160, you are not required to submit an additional photograph with your application.  If there are any issues with the uploaded photograph, however, you will be required to provide a new one which may delay the processing of your application;
  • Evidence of your status in the United Kingdom, if you are not a U.K or EU passport holder;
  • Evidence of previously issued U.S. visas: If you are no longer in possession of the passport(s) containing the visas, you may advise the consular officer at the time of your interview or if applying by courier, include a statement with your application; and 
  • If you have ever been arrested, cautioned, convicted you are required to declare it, even if it is considered spent and furnish a police certificate known as an ACRO.  The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to U.S. visa law.  Click here for further information;
  • If you have a medical condition that could have a bearing on your eligibility for a visa, furnish a letter from your physician which discusses your current state of health. Click here for further information;
  • If you have been denied entry into or deported, or removed from the United States furnish documents relating to this. Click here for further information

The current wait time for interviews is 7 days, with 5 days for processing after that and then 7-10 days for the passport coming back.

If this gets signed this week, in the current format, it is likely to be a disaster!



  1. Absolutely ridiculous! Imagine what happens if Europe/Australia/Japan/NZ decide to reciprocate this policy. It wouldn’t be too much fun for those of us ignorant Americans, would it? Wait times as it is are ridiculous to get a Schengen Visa. Imagine us (Americans), joining the queue.

  2. Lee is correct. The text in section 9a of the draft executive order reads:

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

    The program in question is one where certain individuals applying for a visa renewal do not need to appear in person for interview at a US consulate/embassy. This change is being made in order to bring consistency to the visa application process.

    This change does *not* affect the Visa Waiver Program, of which ESTA is a component.

    I’m guessing that you read this on one the AUS/NZ news sites which is mis-reporting it.

  3. This is a horrible mis interpretation. Visa Interview Waiver & Visa Waiver are 2 entirely different things.

  4. Yes. This is a false alarm but I don’t think it’s fair to call it post truth or whatever – it arises from a genuine and easily made mistake. But it does show how dangerous it can be when a mistaken piece of journalism is picked up and re-quoted by bloggers who know little but shout loud.

  5. To be fair, the LA Times misreported this. Since the LA Times is reputable, it is an easy mistake.

    Nonetheless, this will still anger some countries and they may retaliate to make things difficult for Americans.

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