Trump is NOT axing visa-free Aussie travel to the USA

Trump is NOT axing visa-free Aussie travel to the USA

No change to visa-free ESTA travel, but some visas will require an interview at the US consulate before they can be renewed.

There's been plenty of misreporting over the impact of President Trump's Executive Order to tighten immigration into the USA, including aspects of travelling to the US for both leisure and business.

Some news outlets have incorrectly claimed that Australians planning to visit the US "could be forced to undertake an in-person interview with American officials under strict new border rules."

This is utter nonsense stemming from an incorrect reading of the Executive Order and a lack of understanding of the current US system for both visa and visa-free travel. So here's the real deal.

Visa-free ESTA travel

There's no change to the current and largely hassle-free ESTA 'visa waiver' scheme which allows travellers to enter the USA without obtaining a visa, simply by completing an online application.

Most travellers to the USA do so under the ESTA visa-waiver program, with ESTA clearances valid for two years and allowing an unlimited number of entries into the US for both business and leisure purposes.

When your ESTA permit expires, you jump back online and apply for a new one. Nothing about this process will change.

Read more: Visa-free entry to the USA – what you need to know about ESTA

Travel requiring a visa

ESTA aside, there are still many instances where a visa is required. It's necessary to visit the US consulate for an interview as part of the application for these visas, but no interview is needed when it's time to renew the visa.

This is where some publications mucked it up: they confused the ESTA-based Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP). The former removes the need for a visa; the latter removes the need to be interviewed for some visa renewals.

Under President Trump's Executive Order, the VIWP has been suspended – meaning that some travellers with a US visa will have to attend the US Consulate for an interview before their visa is renewed.

The specific reference, from Section 8 of Trump's 'Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States' Executive Order, determines that "the Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions."

For further information, visit

Readers are reminded to keep their comments on topic: this is not the place to discuss US politics or President Trump.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • Boof


    29 Jan, 2017 01:02 pm

    Well done on clearing this up David. Best article you've written in ages. Social Media and News outlets are having a field day on this with no idea of what is actually impacted!
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    cicada5555, stuapola

  • TheRealBabushka


    29 Jan, 2017 01:37 pm

    Anyone knows if Australian passport holders born in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan & Libya will be allowed to travel to the US on their Australian passport under the Visa Waiver (ESTA) programme? 
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  • BNE0077


    29 Jan, 2017 02:05 pm

    I doubt it given developments over the last 24 hours. It appears as though those nationals holding passports from countries in the Visa Waiver Program will not be admitted. I had to attend the consulate to obtain a visa( for travel next week) given my Iranian heritage even though I was born here and had to obtain a B1/B2 visa after my ESTA was cancelled 2 weeks ago.  On the face of reports today even with a valid visa I don't think I'll be permitted to enter the country given my " dual nationality".  Will have to look at the US Dept of State site for updates. 
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    David, bored

  • BNE0077


    29 Jan, 2017 02:09 pm

    As an add on my ESTA was cancelled I think based on questions about names of parents and their nationality. 
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  • fxdxdy


    29 Jan, 2017 05:15 pm

    I believe so.
    In your example, a dual Iraqi-Australia travelling on an Australian passport would be banned if their Australian passport had a visitor visa stamped in it and I would assume this would extend to ESTA.
    The last time I used ESTA if did ask about dual nationality.
    You can use ESTA to check the status of your ESTA visa - I would be doing that.
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  • fxdxdy


    31 Jan, 2017 09:17 am

    Announcement was just made that Australian dual nationals will still be allowed access to the US.
    How we just need a dual national Aussie to give it a go and let us know the result.
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  • Mal


    29 Jan, 2017 02:01 pm

    I suspect the US Consulate will know, if you fall into one of the categories you have outlined you'll want to check with them.
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  • Nicolettam


    29 Jan, 2017 02:51 pm

    I just reapplied for my ESTA and I now have a 72 hour waiting period for approval.  It has never been like that before, it was always instant.  Does anyone know what that is all about?
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  • Mal


    29 Jan, 2017 03:11 pm

    Interesting to hear than, Nicolette, when I have applied for my ESTA it's always a very fast turnaround, within 15 minutes.
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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    30 Jan, 2017 05:11 pm

    This often seems to happen when you apply at weekends, for some reason, and has done for some years. Has happened to me on the last two occasions I've applied, both at weekends. In reality, the system will show the ESTA is approved anywhere between 1 and 24 hours later.
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  • Koru17


    29 Jan, 2017 03:21 pm

    I take it DHS Global Entry is not effected?
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  • crosscourt


    29 Jan, 2017 06:57 pm

    Wonder what sort of reaction would be delivered if a person is an Australian with an Australian passport and not a dual citizen and has an "I" visa, but has a used visa for Iran in the passport having been there on a four day visit as a tourist but has also entered the USA after the visit to Iran with no issue.
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  • mattincbr


    29 Jan, 2017 07:11 pm

    Just to clarify - the Executive Order is not in draft a it has been signed, and was implemented by The US Department of Homeland Security on signing (not in anticipation of it).  
    It has subsequently challenged by the ACLU in the US Federal Court with the effect that those holding existing and current visas can continue to travel to the US.
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  • mviy


    29 Jan, 2017 07:58 pm

    That is a different executive order that has no impact on most Australians.
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  • mattincbr


    29 Jan, 2017 08:07 pm

    Pretty sure all of the VIWP program is caught in section 4 of the signed executive order that requires the implementation of uniform screening programs for all visa programs (and is what caused the confusion in newsrooms about the VWP)
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  • Looking


    29 Jan, 2017 09:45 pm

    So as I understood the law was changed some weeks ago under the previous american president. In that if you had been to certain countries in the past five years, regardless of passport i.e you could be a have a NZ passport and have a Syria visa, you are no longer eligible for for the visa waiver programme. As a person who has had a syrian visa in a previous passport and have entered america it is not true that this a new thing...the stupid questions I have been asked but then again americans call mcdonalds a "restaurant".

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  • Himeno


    1 Feb, 2017 03:53 pm

    The VWP was changed quite some time ago.
    In late 2014, more questions were added to the form re family members
    In late 2015, optional questions relating to social media were added and people holding VWP eligible passport who had visiting one of the 7 listing middle eastern nations since 2011 were banned from using the VWP, being required to get a visa instead.

    In the last few days, the VIWP was removed, which did not impact on the VWP at all; and the travel ban on all refugees and anyone from the 7 middle eastern nations put in place. This travel ban also impacted duel nationals with a number of Canadian and European citizens holding a 2nd "bad" passport being turned back.
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  • Joe


    2 Feb, 2017 09:48 am

    Surely If one has an existing ESTA approval they would need to notify you via email for example you to inform if there problems or been cancelled or need to present for interview?
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  • Brucanna


    3 Feb, 2017 10:50 pm

    Looking wrote "but then again Americans call McDonalds a "restaurant".

    Actually, McDonalds itself as part of their marketing image have been calling McDonalds a Restaurant for over 30 years .

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22 Jul, 2019 05:50 am


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