New rules regarding entry to the U.S. if you have travelled to North Korea

Published on 2019-08-09


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If you've seen recent tweets by Donald Trump regarding his relations with North Korea and Kim Jong Un, you might be wondering "What are the latest rules regarding entry to the United States if you have travelled to North Korea?". Read on to find out what recent changes have been made, what this means for travellers and where can you find out more information.

Due to recent political tensions regarding nuclear arms in North Korea, the US Customs and Border Protection Agency have decided to make a change to the ESTA Visa Waiver Program. These changes come after North Korea tested ballistic missiles by firing them into the sea on Tuesday 2, August 2019. This is thought to be the fourth such test in less than two weeks, sparking a number of tweets by US president Donald Trump. While these missile tests don't seem to have broken the US-North Korea Singapore Agreement, it seems to have had a knock-on effect regarding visas and entry requirements

The change to the ESTA Visa Waiver Program affects all those who have travelled to North Korea since March 1, 2011. Any traveller who has visited North Korea since this time will not be eligible to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and will therefore have to apply for an official visa should they want to enter the country. The ESTA Visa Waiver program is currently open to citizens from 38 countries worldwide and makes travel to the United States relatively quick and hassle-free.

North Korea now joins seven other countries including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, for whom travel to the US is restricted. Residents from these countries, as well as tourists who have visited any of these countries since March 1, 2011, will now be required to apply and pay for a full visa. A full visa application is likely to take longer to be approved than an ESTA, and may also require additional documentation or interviews in order to be granted.

In line with the stricter visa policy introduced by the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, it looks like that North Korean tourism may suffer as travellers may be weary of visiting North Korea for fear of being disallowed future entry into America. Tourism, albeit guided, was previously open to most travellers, including US citizens. This changed in 2017, however, when a full ban was placed on Americans visiting North Korea after the death of US citizen Otto Warmbier shortly after his release from detainment in North Korea.

Whether you were unsure about visiting North Korea for political or safety concerns before, or are now weary about travel due to possible future restrictions, it's worth reading more from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency website so that you have all the details you need to make an informed decision.



1. U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (2019). Gathered from Department of Homeland Security:
2. Time USA. (2019. Gathered from Time USA:
3. Evening Standard (2019). News. Gathered from Evening Standard:
4. U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (2019). Visa Waiver Program. Gathered from U.S. Customs and Border Protection:


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