The rules surrounding air travel is undergoing changes every day. However, the US airspace is being treated as sacred more so now with the Trump government than ever before. And as such the rules about air travel is constantly changing too. The travelers most affected by these changes are non-immigrant visa holders who while temporarily living in the US for work on H1-B visas often visit their home countries or those that are visiting here on B2 visas.
Some of the recent changes are either already implemented or being proposed for a future date. These are resultant from increased protectionist and security measures or because of changing political climate like Brexit. Visa holders especially should be mindful of these while they are preparing for summer travels which transits through other international airports and prepare for potential impact on their travel plans.
As a H1-B Visa Holder or Visitor to the US on a B2 Visa flying in or out of the US, What Should You be Aware of?
- Biometrics: All outgoing travelers will now have to go through biometric scanning to track timely departures allowed within their visas statuses. Several pilot exercises have already been conducted in some of the highly trafficked international airports and will now be implemented across the country. Travelers should be prepared with additional time before boarding their flights to accommodate this program.
- Secure Travel Partnership: Originally known as Visa Waiver Program, acts as a national security instrument and intends to implement additional security measures while entering and exiting US airports. Travelers who have advanced degrees and will productively contribute towards America’s economy have a higher chance of getting temporary visitor visas to the US.
- Visa free travel for US citizens: Currently, US travelers need ETIAS for Europe and Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) for New Zealand is starting in October 2019 which is a new travel authorization required of US Citizens. Brazil also announced visa free travel for US citizens.
- JOLT: Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act is being introduced to encourage value-adding workforce to the US economy. So just like the latest reversal lottery process for the H1-B visas this year, there will be critical enhancements to inbound travel, including measures to increase both the security and efficiency of the U.S. visa process.
- Banned Countries: The travel ban against five countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela continues in full effect so travel through these and from these is restricted. The least minimal “visa waivers” are being granted to travelers from these countries.
- Additional Bans: Overstay your visa and face stricter travel restrictions by the US CBP forces at port of entries. These African countries – Chad, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Liberia, Somalia, and South Sudan have had the highest rate of visa overstays and consequently a new proposal is being drafted that imposes restrictions on their short-term tourist and business visas.
- BREXIT: As H1-B visa holders and their dependent family members prepare to travel to their home countries, transiting through London is a common part of route-planning. While you can continue to travel through London and other international airports for now, after Brexit, domestic flights within and out of the UK will get drastically affected. Plan future travels keeping this in mind.
- Visiting UK: Travelers looking for flights to the U.K. could be hit with fewer options and higher prices. Because of a new accord between US and Europe and its requirement for new waivers from US before adding new flights.
- No more ‘Fast Track’ in UK: With new changes, the “fast track” customs line will be exclusively for British passport holders only while all other international travelers including ones coming from the US will have to process their entry papers separately in longer queues.
- Documentation: U.S. citizens will continue to need a valid passport with a blank page inside to enter the U.K. Currently, they don’t need a visa for a visit of under 90 days, and that looks unlikely to change.