ESTA program no longer available to visitors who have visited North Korea

Beginning immediately, all visitors to the U.S. who have traveled to North Korea since March 2011 will no longer be allowed to use the visa waiver program (ESTA). As part of the visa waiver program (VWP), citizens of 38 countries — including Japan and South Korea — are allowed to travel to the United States visa-free, as long as they register beforehand on the official ESTA application website.

However, even travelers eligible for ESTA who have a history of travel to eight specific countries — Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — on or after March 1, 2011, now need to apply for and receive a B visa to enter the United States. North Korea is a new addition to this list of countries. In addition, an e-Passport has been required since April 1, 2016 in order to use the VWP. Please see the CBP website for details.

This new change also brings concerns that this will negatively affect tourism to the U.S., especially from South Koreans during a time when the South Korean government hopes to promote cross-border tourism with the North. Upwards of 37,000 South Koreans have visited North Korea since March 2011, according to several news agencies and reported on by The Japan Times.