Feinstein introduced a bill on Tuesday to clamp down on a program that allows people from 38 countries, mostly European but also allies such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, to travel to the USA without a visa.
House Republican leaders have announced a new legislative proposal aimed at boosting national security by changing the nation’s visa waiver program, and said the bill would get a vote by next week. It would also mandate VWP travelers to use an electronic passport, submit biometric information before traveling to the US, and require more intelligence sharing among VWP countries.
Now the visa waiver program allows travelers from 38 approved nations to enter the country for 90 days without already having a United States visa – a privilege that almost 20 million visitors to the U.S. take advantage of every year.
United States officials privately admit that they are more anxious about possible ISIS or other Europe-based militants using the visa-waiver programme to enter the U.S. than they are by the possibility that would-be attackers might hide among droves of US-bound refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq.
Although Congress is often incapacitated by partisan fights and dysfunction, with significant policy bills rarely making much headway, the drive to restrict foreign travelers under what’s called the visa-waiver program could be different, given a boost by the November 13 Paris terror attacks and the controversy over accepting Syrian refugees.
“Our bi-partisan legislation strengthens the program by requiring the collection of additional information from travelers before they arrive, and requiring participating countries to share valuable information and intelligence with us”, said Warner.
“It is for this reason principally that I directed a series of security enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program which began in November 2014”. Travellers who get visas from U.S. embassies or consulates now must pay a fee of US$160. Dianne Feinstein, Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Sens.
“The US travel community strongly supports sensible security enhancements to the visa-waiver programme”.
The U.S. Travel Association said in response to the proposed legislation that it supports “sensible security enhancements” to the VWP, but would not support steps that “ultimately dismantle the program and set back America’s economy and our efforts to protect the homeland”.
“That’s why this legislation is so important; it will strengthen the visa waiver program – not abolish it – but strengthen it to keep terrorists from reaching our shores”. More than 1,500 of them are from France.
And US “foreign fighter surge teams” will deploy to areas where there is a concern that jihadists returning from war zones may seek onward travel to the United States.
“We must do everything we can to prevent foreign fighters from exploiting the program”.
“We want to ensure that we have tighter scrutiny in place, better information sharing, ” he added.
Increase contribution to, and screening against, INTERPOL’s lost and stolen documents database. Legislative solution: Require completion of a federal air marshal agreement.