In November, the entire world was shocked and saddened by the horrible terrorist attacks that were levied in multiple locations in Paris, France. In the wake of these tragedies, France and other countries are enhancing their security measures both domestically and with regards to international visitors. The United States has proven to be no different in this regard, as the White House recently announced that it will be implementing temporary changes to the current Visa Waiver Program (VWP), effective immediately, in the name of increased security.
The Visa Waiver Program
The VWP allows foreign nationals of certain countries to enjoy visa-free travel in and out of the United States, provided they do not intend to remain in the U.S. for longer than 90 days, and provided that they do not intend to work or attend school. Foreign nationals from many European and South American countries may qualify, including France, Italy, England, Ecuador, Spain, Chile, Germany, and others.
VWP entrants are still inspected at the U.S. border, but they do not have to present a valid visa or other documentation in order to be admitted. It is estimated that approximately 20 million foreign nationals come to the U.S. via the VWP every year.
The White House’s Changes to the VWP
The White House’s newly announced measures will require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obtain more detailed information from incoming travelers to the U.S. if the travelers had recently traveled to Syria, Iraq, and other countries that are believed to have an ISIS presence. President Obama hopes that this increase in intelligence gathering will improve the DHS’s ability to prevent terrorists from traveling to the U.S. using stolen or forged passports.
In addition to the intelligence gathering, the DHS will also implement programs for processing fingerprints and other biometric information from VWP travelers. The agency will also request that Congress grant the DHS more leeway in their ability to increase fines for airlines that don’t verify and confirm passport data, and to allow the DHS to require that all travelers use passports that come equipped with enhanced security chips.
Moreover, a House of Representatives taskforce has been formed and met last week to discuss a proposed preclearance program for certain travelers. The taskforce’s goal is to introduce legislation to adopt the program by the end of 2015.
House of Representatives Respond to the Paris Attacks
Likewise, the House of Representatives also responded to the Paris attacks by quickly passing a bill to prohibit Syrian and Iraqi refugees from coming to the United States unless and until immigration officials confirm that they do not pose a threat to national security. However, this bill flies in the face of the President’s goal to welcome 10,000 refugees in 2016 and so he has already promised that he will veto it.
The entire world mourned those lost in the Paris attacks, and national leaders all over the globe have again joined together in the fight against terrorism. In the coming months, more immigration regulations may change or be implemented in response to the attacks, so be sure to continue to check our blog for more information on the latest immigration developments.
More Blog Posts
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012