Travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries who have visited Libya, Somalia, and Yemen will need to obtain a visa in order to travel to the U.S. under new Department of Homeland Security travel restrictions.
Thursday DHS announced that Libya, Somalia, and Yemen would be joining Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria as “countries of concern.” Individuals who traveled to those countries of concern in the last five years will now need to obtain a visa to come to the U.S. Unlike Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria, dual nationals from Libya, Somalia, and Yemen will not be subject to the new restrictions.
“The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of Visa Waiver Program travelers will not be affected,” DHS said in its announcement.
Congress mandated restrictions to the Visa Waiver Program — which allows nationals from 38 countries to travel to the U.S. temporarily without a visa — to beef up security in December.
Lawmakers have been angered in recent weeks, however, at the exemptions the Obama administration has added as it implements the law. Of specific concern to Republicans has been the administration’s decision to grant waivers to travelers who visited the countries of concern for government, humanitarian, or reporting purposes and, in the case of Iran and Iraq, also for business purposes.
Following DHS’ announcement, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) praised the department for adding Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list of countries of concern but reiterated his worries about the administration’s unilateral changes to the law.
“Despite these positive steps, I still have grave concerns that the Administration is not implementing this law as Congress intended and plans to waive important security screening requirements to appease countries like Iran,” McCaul said in a statement. “The President must faithfully adhere to the law—it’s his duty to the Constitution and to ensure the security of the American people.”