Travelers from the countries under the United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will no longer be capable of entering the US with only an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), if they have visited North Korea after March 1, 2011. Instead, they will have to get a regular US tourist visa, in order to be eligible to cross any of the US border entries, by air, sea or land.
The new move has been announced only yesterday, and it will affect tens of thousands of travelers, who for one or another reason, have been to North Korea in recent years.
According to a notice of the US Customs and Border Protection, nationals of 38 countries that visited one of the eight countries listed as high-risk countries by the US authorities, cannot travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, including travelers that visited North Korea.
“Travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP): Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country). Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria”
While the seven other countries, most of them located in the Middle East, have been in this list for years, North Korea is the latest addition.
The most affected country by this move might be South Korea, after it has issued about 37,000 permissions to its citizens, to travel to North Korea, since 2011.
According to an official of the United States Embassy in Seoul, further details on the measure will be announced by the US in the following days.
“It still remains to be seen how the U.S. authority will technically identify South Korean nationals’ record of visits to North Korea,” an official from the embassy explained.
The US ESTA is an electronic program that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, for purposes as those for which a B1 visa or B2 visa would be required for nationals of non-VWP countries.
The VWP program was created to improve security for the people who visit the United States and also so that US citizens can travel to the other 38 countries freely.