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Visa Waiver programU.S. considering major changes to Visa Waiver program

Published 20 April 2017

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said the Trump administration is considering making changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), making it harder for Europeans travelling to the United States. Kelly said the existing rules, which do not require citizens of thirty-eight countries to get a visa for a trip of less than three months to the United States, should be re-evaluated in light of concerns about terrorism. “We have to start looking very hard at that [visa waiver] program,” he said.

U.S. may make restrictive changes to its visa program // Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said the Trump administration is considering making changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), making it harder for Europeans travelling to the United States. Kelly said the existing rules, which do not require citizens of thirty-eight countries to get a visa for a trip of less than three months to the United States, should be re-evaluated in light of concerns about terrorism.

We have to start looking very hard at that [visa waiver] program,” he said.

Kelly added that he was not considering doing away with the system, but said the current set-up needed to be looked at again.

Not eliminating it and not doing anything excessive,” CNNMoney reported him saying in a speech in Washington, D.C., “but look very hard at that program.”

Airlines have recently warned of what they called a “Trump slump” in travel to the united States. In the days following the first announcement of the travel ban, travel to the United States dropped 6.5 percent, and online searches for flights to America dropped by 17 percent in the same week.

The Global Business Travel Association estimated that in the week following the announcement of the travel ban, there was a $185 million in business travel bookings.

Kelly told CNNMoney that he worried ISIS fighters were using the visa-waiver system to sneak into the United States, warning America was the “Super Bowl in terms of terrorists…that’s where they wanna come [sic].”

The United States had already tightened VWP rules in 2015, so that nationals of visa-waiver countries who had been to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after 1 March 2011, were no longer eligible to participate in VWP

About fourteen million European citizens travel to the United States each year, using VWP.

In March, the European Parliament voted to end visa-free travel for Americans within the EU, in retaliation for the U.S. reluctance to accept into the VWP citizens of five EU countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania.

The U.S. has concerns over security procedures in these five countries.

The European Parliament gave the United States until mid-May to accept the five countries as members of VWP – or face revocation of visa-free travel by Americans to Europe.