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I have a question since I have a new passport with which I have already traveled with a validated ESTA to the USA. In 2 weeks I am leaving for Iran and then I will need to go back to the US for work. Since now the Iranian visa is not applied directly on the passport but is a separate paper, do I need to apply for a US visa even though I have already a validated ESTA and my passport does not show an Iranian visa?

I am scared than if I travel to the US after my Iran trip with the ESTA and then I apply for a visa, they will ask me when the trip in Iran was and that date is antecedent to the visa request and they might then not validate the visa.

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According to the US's CBP (my emphasis),

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, 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, or Sudan.

There are a few exceptions for official government travel, which I presume do not apply to you (please check).

The ESTA is not a visa, it is authorization to get on a plane. Since your trip to Iran will result in ineligibility to enter the US without a visa, you must apply for a visa.

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    Thank you so much Robert! Your answer is very helpful, I will then apply for a visa. Have a great day! – Giorgia Mar 28 at 14:28
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    @Giorgia If this post answered your question, please accept it by clicking the checkmark to the left of the post. – David K Mar 28 at 16:32
  • Isn't that dependent on OP's country of origin ? Not all citizens are banned from ESTA after visiting Iran. – Antzi Mar 29 at 6:18
  • @Antzi Apparently not. The quoted paragraph is quite clear. What did you have in mind? – Oscar Bravo Mar 29 at 7:02
  • @OscarBravo Yes, you seem to be right. I was convinced it applied only to a few countries. – Antzi Mar 29 at 7:26
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I think the safest option is to ask Iran's border police to not stamp on your passport when your enter and leave Iran. There is a law in Iran that allows you to ask this, and it was issued to bypass USA VWP. In this way, nobody in US finds out about your travel to Iran.

  • This is quite clearly not the "safest option", which would be to apply for a visa for the US as is required by their immigration rules. – jbg Apr 10 at 16:21

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