VISA Waiver Program to USA

Nope. Esta is valid for the 2 year period for entry to the US (which you’ll be doing). The US doesn’t do transit really. Every time you’ll be entering the country.
 
Does anyone know the current list of countries such as Iran where having visited them makes getting entry to the U.S. more difficult?
 
Does anyone know the current list of countries such as Iran where having visited them makes getting entry to the U.S. more difficult?
It's usually on the ESTA application, so maybe go through a dummy one?
 
I might have to.
I'd also have a look at Official ESTA Application Website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Are there any exceptions or waivers to the new eligibility requirements?​

Yes. If you have traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen to represent your program country on official military orders or official government business, you may fall within an established exception to the new eligibility requirements. However, these exceptions do not apply to the restriction for dual nationals of one of the subject countries (“dual national restriction”).
The Department of Homeland Security may waive these travel-related VWP restrictions if it determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers may only be granted on a case-by-case basis.

What are the new eligibility requirements for VWP travel?​

Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States, without a waiver, under the VWP:
  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions); and
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, North Korea or Sudan.
These restrictions do not apply to VWP travelers whose presence in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen was to perform military service in the armed forces of a program country, or in order to carry out official duties as a full-time employee of the government of a program country. We recommend those individuals who have traveled to one or more of the seven countries listed above for military/official purposes bring with them appropriate documentation when traveling through a U.S. port of entry. However, these exceptions do not apply to the restriction for dual nationals of one of the subject countries (“dual national restriction”).
The vast majority of VWP-eligible travelers will not be affected by the new Act. New countries may be added to this list by designation of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
 
So Cuba has dropped off the naughty list?

** Edited it hasn't but only ineligible for ESTA if visited Cuba on or after January 12, 2021.
 
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I'd also have a look at Official ESTA Application Website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Are there any exceptions or waivers to the new eligibility requirements?​

Yes. If you have traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen to represent your program country on official military orders or official government business, you may fall within an established exception to the new eligibility requirements. However, these exceptions do not apply to the restriction for dual nationals of one of the subject countries (“dual national restriction”).
The Department of Homeland Security may waive these travel-related VWP restrictions if it determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers may only be granted on a case-by-case basis.

What are the new eligibility requirements for VWP travel?​

Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States, without a waiver, under the VWP:
  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions); and
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, North Korea or Sudan.
These restrictions do not apply to VWP travelers whose presence in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen was to perform military service in the armed forces of a program country, or in order to carry out official duties as a full-time employee of the government of a program country. We recommend those individuals who have traveled to one or more of the seven countries listed above for military/official purposes bring with them appropriate documentation when traveling through a U.S. port of entry. However, these exceptions do not apply to the restriction for dual nationals of one of the subject countries (“dual national restriction”).
The vast majority of VWP-eligible travelers will not be affected by the new Act. New countries may be added to this list by designation of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Many thanks Flashback - seems like I am OK still thankfully - partly due to COVID cancelling some plans! A friend of mine who works for an NGO has been refused a Visa even after the embassy interview because she worked in Iraq. I wouldn't be surprised to see them add Afghanistan to the list before too long. Hopefully they don't add Lebanon to the list.

It must be a nightmare for journalists etc.
 
Okay, so just did my ESTA - scanned my passport, then uploaded the image. It all seemed way too quick to do the actual application - probably 30 mins ... but its come back with 'Authorization Pending' ... is this normal?
 
Okay, so just did my ESTA - scanned my passport, then uploaded the image. It all seemed way too quick to do the actual application - probably 30 mins ... but its come back with 'Authorization Pending' ... is this normal?
Yes, very normal. Expect anywhere up to 72 hours. Normally when I've done it it takes arround 3 to 4 hours.
 
Okay, so just did my ESTA - scanned my passport, then uploaded the image. It all seemed way too quick to do the actual application - probably 30 mins ... but its come back with 'Authorization Pending' ... is this normal?
Yes. Give it 24 hrs or so before getting worried.
 
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So Cuba has dropped off the naughty list?

** Edited it hasn't but only ineligible for ESTA if visited Cuba on or after January 12, 2021.
Yeah a shame...I visited Havana in 2014....very interesting place and worth a visit. :)
 
A word of warning - don't delay with your ESTA. The official advice is to get it sorted before you book flights, but I don't think many do that.
Anyway, I booked flights, left it for a couple months thinking the ESTA would be simple and basically a formality since I have been granted the waiver in the past. This time though, ESTA came back 'denied.' Had to fork out hundreds for the visa application, only to find that the earliest available appointment was 2 months after our scheduled flight/entry :s
No luck with any support numbers or official requests for an expedited interview.
Only after a couple stress filled days of refreshing the reschedule page did some September availability appear (probably due to cancellations). Still not guaranteed it will process in time. (Was seriously considering flying SYD-MEL just for the interview...)

Earliest available SYD interview for B2 visa is now bouncing between late Jan- mid Feb.
Moral of the story: do your ESTA ASAP.
 
A word of warning - don't delay with your ESTA. The official advice is to get it sorted before you book flights, but I don't think many do that.
Anyway, I booked flights, left it for a couple months thinking the ESTA would be simple and basically a formality since I have been granted the waiver in the past. This time though, ESTA came back 'denied.' Had to fork out hundreds for the visa application, only to find that the earliest available appointment was 2 months after our scheduled flight/entry :s
No luck with any support numbers or official requests for an expedited interview.
Only after a couple stress filled days of refreshing the reschedule page did some September availability appear (probably due to cancellations). Still not guaranteed it will process in time. (Was seriously considering flying SYD-MEL just for the interview...)

Earliest available SYD interview for B2 visa is now bouncing between late Jan- mid Feb.
Moral of the story: do your ESTA ASAP.
Sorry, that sucks. AFAIK, expedited interviews only happen with genuine extenuating circumstances (not "I already booked flights").

For my previous (E3) visa appointment, I wasn't able to see anything for 5 or 6 months, but they released a whole week or so of availability in Sydney a few weeks out (when the embassy/visa center moved) - so yeah, don't delay, but also don't stop checking for new availability either.
 
A word of warning - don't delay with your ESTA. The official advice is to get it sorted before you book flights, but I don't think many do that.
Anyway, I booked flights, left it for a couple months thinking the ESTA would be simple and basically a formality since I have been granted the waiver in the past. This time though, ESTA came back 'denied.' Had to fork out hundreds for the visa application, only to find that the earliest available appointment was 2 months after our scheduled flight/entry :s
No luck with any support numbers or official requests for an expedited interview.
Only after a couple stress filled days of refreshing the reschedule page did some September availability appear (probably due to cancellations). Still not guaranteed it will process in time. (Was seriously considering flying SYD-MEL just for the interview...)

Earliest available SYD interview for B2 visa is now bouncing between late Jan- mid Feb.
Moral of the story: do your ESTA ASAP.
Do you have a sense of why you were denied?
 
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Yeah, I visited North Korea in 2016 for 6 days as a tourist. They're obviously on the no no list, so I answered 'yes' to that question.
That will be it.

A friend is joining us in the US shortly. We alerted him to that issue months out and he also received the “Declined” pretty much straight away (after taking his money). Plenty of time to go and get a visa…
 

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