Hong Kong is the only developed country with a higher human development index than the United States, which citizens cannot benefit from. Since 2012, the visa refusal rate for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has fallen to 1.7% for the HKSAR passport and 2.6% for the British National Passport (Overseas).  Hong Kong met all VWP criteria, but was not an option at the time, as it is not legally a separate country, although it has its own passports and an independent judicial system, a monetary system and immigration control. Former Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang raised the issue with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her 2011 visit to the United States and was well received.  On May 16, 2013, a multi-party amendment was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but not in a dent. On August 10, 2015, Clifford Hart, U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong and Macao, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the visa waiver will not take place “for the foreseeable future,” as the Visa Waiver Act requires the participant to be a “sovereign state” and Hong Kong is not independent, ending the possibility of Hong Kong joining the program. He also denied that the failure of the HKSAR government`s lobbying on the issue was due to the refusal to arrest Edward Snowden in 2013.  The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State, annually evaluates the countries of the program on the basis of the criteria described in point B) and identifies each country in the program, the admission of nationals whose risk to U.S. national security is high under the visa waiver program provided by this section of the Secretary. Since 2016, the visa exemption no longer applies in cases where a person has travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on March 1, 2011 or to persons who are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.
 Certain categories such as diplomats, military personnel, journalists, aid workers or legitimate businessmen may waive the visa requirement of the Minister of Homeland Security.  All arriving passengers who intend to use the visa waiver program when travelling to the United States by air or sea must apply for an online travel authorization via the Electronic Travel Authorization System (ESTA) before departing, preferably at least 72 hours (3 days) in advance. This new requirement was announced on June 3, 2008 and aims to enhance U.S. security by pre-introducing participating VWP passengers against terrorist lists and/or no-fly lists and databases.  The electronic authorization, valid for a period of two years, is a reflection of the Australian Electronic Travel Authority system. Authorization is mandatory for citizens participating in the VWP prior to boarding flights to the United States, but, as with official visas, this does not guarantee entry to the United States, since final authorization is set in the United States.