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Husband and I are going on holiday to Orlando with our kids in July. I was going to do our ESTA's online but because of new rules not sure if my husband needs a visa now. He works for an oil company and worked on a land rig Sep 2013 for just less than 2 wks. The new rules say there may be exceptions for people who have been there on legitimate business but doesn't say how to proceed. Tried asking US embassy London and got no help.

We are in Aberdeen and it's going to cost a bit having to pay for visa and travel to London now. Should we just play it safe and get visa? Don't want to risk our family holiday.

  • Hi and welcome. I'm guessing you are all UK citizens. Is that correct? – JoErNanO Feb 9 '16 at 9:28
  • Worth poining out that only your husband would need to spend the time and money on a visa - the rest of you would still be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, provided you get granted an ESTA (which you almost certainly would) – CMaster Feb 9 '16 at 9:29
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    Yes all British citizens – Claire Feb 9 '16 at 9:32
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    @Claire as far as any of us on this site can tell, while there "may be exceptions made" - there appears to be no process for these exceptions at the moment. Frustrated by this rule? Contact your MP and complain, and hope it gets as far as the Foreign Secretary, who can then whinge at the US. – CMaster Feb 9 '16 at 10:38
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    I would advise you play it safe and get a visa. The problem is that the US Embassy is run by the Department of State, which is a totally separate government department to Homeland Security, which is the one which manages the visa and ESTA program. So the Embassy people are probably as confused as the rest of us about the new rules. It really is better to sort it out now rather than at the airport. – Calchas Feb 10 '16 at 2:37
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+100

U.S. Customs and Border Protection in a posting dated June 21, 2016 is clear:

travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP:

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have been present in Iraq, Syria, or countries listed under specified designation lists (currently including Iran and Sudan) at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited government/military exceptions).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited government/military exceptions).

Your husband works for an oil company and worked on a land rig Sep 2013 for just less than 2 wks. Clearly he does not fit the "government/military" exemptions (ibid):

These restrictions do not apply to VWP travelers whose presence in Iraq, 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.

If he wants to be allowed to board an aircraft going to USA he will have to apply for and obtain a visa. Yes, it is a big nuisance, and some cost, for someone residing in Aberdeen but (a) not very different from the requirements of some other countries and (b) not very different from the requirement for some non-UK nationals seeking to remain resident in Aberdeen.

Can I visit the US under the terms of VWP after previously being in Iraq for business?

With an ESTA you can (unless you too have been to Iraq on business recently), your husband can't.

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In most cases the visa is granted and best is to apply at Edinburgh US Consulate.

Phone [44] (0)131 556 8315 Fax [44] (0)131 557 6023

Email: Edinburgh-Info@state.gov

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