• RefugeesEuropeans concerned over thriving trade in fake, stolen Syrian papers

    The EU countries trying to formulate a cohesive policy to deal with the hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to enter the EU zone are now facing a new problem: The burgeoning trade in stolen Syrian identity documents. Most European countries are yet to agree to accept more than a token number of Syrian refugees, but Germany and Sweden have made it known that while the EU is grappling with the issue, the asylum system in both countries would offer preferential treatment for Syrians. This preference has made Syrian passports into a must-have document for non-Syrian immigrants who would otherwise not be likely to qualify as refugees.

  • Real IDSome 200,000 federal building to be affected by REAL ID as of 10 October

    Beginning 10 October, security screeners in roughly 200,000 federal buildings may deny access to visitors who present a driver’s license or identification card from a state which is non-compliant with REAL ID rules. A passport or ID specially approved by the federal government may be used as proof of identity. The Government Services Administration (GSA) says there are 275,195 buildings which are owned and leased by the federal government as of 2014. Enforcement of the REAL ID Act has so far been limited to only 217 of these buildings.

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

    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.

  • Trusted travelersU.S., Canada, Mexico create North American Trusted Traveler network

    DHS said it has joined Public Safety Canada and the Secretariat of Governance of Mexico in outlining the first steps toward the creation of a North American Trusted Traveler network. The new agreement, signed on 10 July 2015, will make it easier for eligible travelers in the United States, Mexico, and Canada to apply for expedited screening programs. Eligible travelers will be able to apply for each program beginning in 2016.

  • Visa Waiver ProgramBill would expand Visa Waiver Program despite security concerns

    U.S. Representatives Joe Heck (R-Nevada) and Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) have re-introduced the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which aims to create American jobs by expanding the nation’s Visa Waiver Program(VWP) to more countries. Today, thirty-eight countries are included in the VWP, but with more than 3,000 European nationals flocking to Syria and Iraq to fight in the ranks of terror groups such as Islamic State (ISIS), expanding the VWP to more countries is a security concern.

  • VisasWith thousands of Westerners joining ISIS, visa waiver program puts U.S. at risk: Lawmakers

    Security concerns are threatening the 1986 visa waiver program (VWP), which allows millions of people with (mostly) Western passports to travel to the United States for ninety days without a visa. Lawmakers argue that the program, which applies to citizens of thirty-eight countries, has created a security weakness that terrorist groups, specifically the Islamic State (ISIS), could exploit. Thousands of European citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Security officials fear that many of them could return back to Europe, then board a U.S.-bound flight with the intent of launching an attack on American soil.

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  • Real IDIllinois scrambles to meet Real ID deadline

    State officials in Illinois are working to make driver’s licenses and identification cards comply with the Real ID Act of 2005before commercial air travel restrictions are implemented in 2016. Illinois identification cards do not meet minimum standards mandated by Congress in 2005. The Real ID Act requires states to verify personal information of applicants including birth certificates. The information is then electronically scanned and stored in a federal database, and data can be shared among states and the federal government.

  • Visa Waiver ProgramLawmakers want more security features to be added to Visa Waiver Program

    The recent attacks in Paris have led U.S. lawmakers to propose restrictions on, or adding more security to, the U.S. Visa Waiver Program(VWP), which allows citizens from thirty-eight countries to travel to the United States for up to ninety days without obtaining a traditional visa. Concerns now revolve around the threat that some of the roughly 3,000 European nationals who have traveled to Syria to fight alongside Islamic extremist groups, and are now equipped with skills to launch an attack, may return to Europe and then book a flight to the United States to launch an attack.

  • Aviation securityEU Parliament considers reviving uniform air-passenger information legislation

    The European Parliament is considering reviving draft legislation which would force airline companies to give EU member governments a cohesive and uniform set of passenger information, following heightened security concerns in the wake of the 7 January Paris attacks. The legislation, first proposed in 2011, was rejected bu the EU Parliament in 2013.

  • Visa Waiver programVisa Waiver program scrutinized in wake of Paris terror attacks

    Following the deadly terror attacks in Paris last week, there has been a renewed criticism of the U.S. visa waiver program which has allowed travel without visa by many. The program is now subject to second thoughts by some and questions whether, as currently constituted, it may expose the United States to unjustified risks. “The visa waiver program is the Achilles’ heel of America,” said one critic, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California).

  • Real IDWashington State to offer 2-tier driver’s license system to comply with Real ID Act

    State officials in Washington are looking to redesign the state’s driver’s licenses and ID cards to comply with the federal 2005 REAL IDact which requires proof of legal U.S. residency for access to federal government buildings and soon domestic air travel. At least twenty-four states and territories have yet fully to comply with the REAL ID act, but Washington is one of only nine states that have not received a compliance extension from the federal government.

  • Border controlU.S. introduces new security measures to screen Western-passport travelers

    At least 3,000 of the 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria are from Australia and Europe. DHS has introduced new screening measures for travelers from Europe, Australia, and other allied nations due to concerns about the increasing number of Islamist militants who have fought in Syria and Iraq alongside the Islamic State (ISIS) and could travel freely to the United States using their Western passports.

  • Real IDMost states are complying with Real ID, but a few lag behind

    Forty U.S. states and some territories have adopted the Real ID Actrequirements for state driver’s licenses and identification cards, mandated by the federal government. Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington are still considered noncompliant as of October 2014. DHS announced a phased enforcement of the Real ID Act in 2013, and residents of non-complying states are already facing restrictions – such as having to present a passport or birth certificate in order to enter restricted areas in federal facilities or nuclear power plants. These restrictions will only tighten between now and January 2016.

  • TerrorismNYC mayor de Blasio facing criticism for curbing counterterrorism programs

    New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is facing backlash over his decision to curb several counterterrorism programs introduced by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Among other things, de Blasio has restricted the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program; approved issuing municipal IDs of standards lower than those mandated by the federal government’s RealID program; is refusing to reinstate a special surveillance program which targeted Muslim communities in New York; and has also replaced the highly regarded deputy police commissioner for intelligence.

  • Visa controlU.S. student visa program fails to monitor participating schools: Lawmaker

    The number of student visa holders in U.S. colleges grew from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012. Today, more than 9,000 schools in the United States participate in the student visa enrollment program. The list includes reputable universities, but it also includes trade schools such as massage and beauty schools. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has introduced legislation to better monitor schools which attract foreign applicants. “It’s time to close the loopholes and clamp down on schools that have a poor track record with regard to foreign students,” Grassley said.