Earlier this week, the White House announced measures to attempt to tighten travel to the United States via the Visa Waiver program. These measures include higher fines for airlines which don’t verify passenger identities and an increase in information sharing between countries.
At the same time, legislators in Congress are squaring up to introduce and advocate for legislation which will further tighten the controls on this program.
The Visa Waiver program allows persons from certain countries to apply for visitor for business or visitor for pleasure (B-1/B-2) entry to the United States without having to first go to a Consulate and interview for a visa. This saves applicants for admission both time and money.
The United States has reciprocal arrangements with these countries, so that U.S. travelers are also not required to go through this process with the country or countries of intended travel.
The current list of countries participating in the Visa Waiver program include Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
The new focus on this program is of course directly related to the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and elsewhere. Security experts have noted that the terrorists in the Paris attacks included French and Belgium nationals, who would be eligible in all likelihood to use the Visa Waiver program to travel to the United States. This is a more significant threat to the U.S. than the refugee program, which involves a two to three year admission process.
The Visa Waiver program is an essential part of business and tourist travel in today’s world. The travel and tourism industry will likely have much to say about proposed restrictions on this program. It is inevitable though that this program will receive additional scrutiny from Congress and the White House in the coming weeks.