Generally, to enter the United States, you must have a U.S. visa. Obtaining a visa involves an intensive vetting process. Among other things, you have to undergo a background check, and you must prove that you don’t intend to abandon your residence abroad. This vetting process is why it is fairly easy to enter the U.S.
One of the big exceptions to the visa requirement is the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens from certain countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. There are currently 38 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, including 24 of the 28 current European Union member countries plus 14 non-EU member states. The Visa Waiver Program has proven to be quite convenient for those who qualify, however, the program as we know it may not be around much longer.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Jeff Flake recently announced that they plan to introduce a bill that would limit the visa waiver program. That announcement came after Senator Angus King’s statement that the visa waiver program is a greater vulnerability than the issue of the Syrian refugees who have to go through an 18-month to two-year vetting process.
The proposed plan to curtail the waiver program is a direct result of the recent Paris attacks, which involved mostly assailants of European nationalities. November 19, 2015, Sen. Feinstein stated in a news conference on Capitol Hill, “Terrorists could exploit the program, could go from France to Syria, as 2,000 fighters have done, come back to France, use the visa waiver program and, without any further scrutiny, come into the United States.” This isn’t the first look at the Visa Waiver Program in light of terrorism either.
The cuts to the program will leave applicants who are accustomed to the waiver “high and dry” and in need of a visa in order to travel to the U.S. Thus, it may be in a traveler’s best interest to go ahead and apply for a temporary “B visa.”
Regardless of whether you’re required to have one, a temporary visa is actually the stronger form of entry to the U.S. To start, merely obtaining a visa waiver is no guarantee that you will be let into the U.S. upon Customs inspection. You could be subject to hours of interrogation at Customs or sent back to where you came from. This possibility are even more likely if you are of North African or Arabic decent, or if there are other factors in your background that could be considered a “red flag” to the immigration officer at the airport.
Second, the Temporary Visa is more convenient. The visa waiver only lasts for 90 days of travel in the US, and you must apply for the waiver every time you want to enter the US. A Temporary B Visa lasts for up to 180 days of US Travel, and, at the discretion of the immigration officer, you may only have to apply once every tens years.
There are a number of temporary visas available that allow for smooth entry into the U.S.
They each have a relatively straightforward application process that an immigration attorney can easily guide you through.