The Visa Waiver Program, managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in cooperation with the State Department, allows immigrants of 38 partner nations to visit the United States for 90 days without a visa, whether for business purposes or leisure. The program has been a convenient way for overseas-based relatives of US citizens to come to the country with relative ease.
That may all change, however.
In light of the terrorist shootings in Paris, France, the Obama administration announced a new initiative to clamp down on security weaknesses in the country’s visa waiver program. In contrast, refugees and asylum seekers have to go through a stringent background check that typically runs up to 2 years.
This change comes in the heels of Democrat representatives trying to divert laws from focusing on refugees, to putting the spotlight on visitors through the visa waiver program.
In its new outline, the Obama administration is asking a complete review of the current visa waiver program, calling on partner nations to share the responsibility of sharing information on potential terror threats with the United States.
It is estimated that more than 20 million travelers visit the United States through the visa waiver program. If the White House’s demands push through, travelers applying for the waivers must reveal any previous travels to countries identified as terrorist havens. The Department of Homeland Security has also received instructions to assist partner countries under the waiver program to apply tighter screenings on refugees and individuals seeking asylum.
The DHS also been instructed to begin development of new potential pilot programs designed to analyze the feasibility of collecting and using biometric data, such as photos and fingerprints, to increase border security.
Moreover, the Obama administration has requested the assistance of Congress in implement its new policy, asking for permission to impose tougher financial penalties ranging from $5,000 to as much as $50,000 on airline companies who knowingly or unknowingly fail to verify the legitimacy of travelers’ passports.
If you , your family, or anyone you know is planning to visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and would like to know what this may mean and how you can protect your rights, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Lyttle Law Firm. Send us an inquiry through our website, or by calling us at 512-215-5225