In the wake of the November 13 attacks in Paris, the White House announced some changes to strengthen the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). U.S. Department of State (DOS) will now start collecting more information from those applying to travel to the U.S. without visas through this waiver program. Nationals of 38 countries, eligible to travel to America without visas will now face stricter security checks.
The White House wants the DOS to collect information on the travelers’ past visits to countries like Iraq and Syria. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said that the new changes will help the country to prevent terrorist attacks. The new measures will also prevent people from traveling to the U.S. on stolen passports.
Pilot programs to collect biometric information from visa waiver travelers are likely to be adopted by the DHS. The DHS wants more power to build fines against aircrafts that fail to verify passport data of those traveling under the VWP without visas. Secretary of DHS, Jeh Johnson will work with the U.S. Congress to pass a legislation that would give the DHS additional powers to further tighten controls.
Approximately 20 million people travel to the U.S. without visas from visa waiver countries every year. U.S. officials are fearful that terrorists or other militant will try to enter the U.S. through the VWP. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., and few other House Democrats have come up with bills to strengthen the waiver program.
The proposed bills would require travelers to hold passports that have embedded security chips. The bill proposed by Miller would permit the DHS to suspend countries that fail to provide sufficient information about the VWP travelers, from the program. Proposals of the Senate Democrats would require U.S. consulates in VWP countries to interview travelers who have visited countries like Syria and Iraq.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif said that all lawmakers want to tighten this program. Most of them want all the countries that take part in this program to issue “e-passports” with security chips and biometrics. They also want the travelers to be screened against a database of lost and stolen passports. The White House is now urging the House to pass a legislation strengthening this program before leaving for a holiday recess in December.