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Visa Waiver programU.S. tightens Visa Waiver Program security measures

Published 13 August 2015

Citizens of the thirty-eight countries which are part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program may travel to the United States without having to obtain an entry visa if they plan to stay in the United States for a period not exceeding ninety days, and if they meet the requirements. Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would tighten the security measures which are already part of the program, and add additional security measures to it.

Visa-less machine readable identification card // Source: http://travel.state.gov

Citizens of the thirty-eight countries which are part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program may travel to the United States without having to obtain an entry visa if they plan to stay in the United States for a period not exceeding ninety days, and if they meet the requirements.

Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would tighten the security measures which are already part of the program, and add additional security measures to it. The move comes as more people from Visa Waiver countries continue to go to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, and the growing concern that some of them may use their home countries’ Visa Waiver status to enter the United States on a terror mission.

“The current global threat environment requires that we know more about those who travel to the United States,” DHS secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, announcing the changes. “This includes those from countries for which we do not require a visa.”

The International Business Times reports that DHS will revamp the program’s security by requiring that all visitors to the United States under the program should have e-passports. Flights to the United States from VWP countries will have more federal air marshals on board. The authorities in VWP countries will also have to use Interpol Lost and Stolen Passport Database to screen passengers crossing a VWP countries borders.

The news measures will apply to both new and current members of the program.

According to U.S. and European intelligence services, since 2011 more than 20,000 foreign fighters have so far travelled to fight for militant groups in Syria and Iraq. Around 3,200 of these are Westerners.

The London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization found that a high number of young men, and a few women, who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq come from three Western European VWP members — Belgium, France, and Britain.