The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tightened the Visa Waiver Program by adding three more countries to its list. This would prohibit people who have visited those nations in the past five years, from entering the United States without a visa. Libya, Somalia and Yemen will now require a U.S. visa to gain entry into the country. The DHS announced changes to its Visa Waiver Program that would make it harder for travelers to enter the United States from Europe, if they had dual citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or had visited one of those countries in the last five years. But if a traveler has dual citizenship of the U.S. and Libya/ Somalia/ Yemen, he/she can come into the U.S. without a U.S. visa.
About 38 countries with a majority of Europe, participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows their citizens to visit the United States without a visa on trips of 90 days or less. About 20 million tourists use the program each year. Given the spate of unforeseen attacks on residents, many countries are on high-alert. Earlier, the VWP allowed travelers from 38 countries including France, Belgium and many European countries, to come to the U.S. without a visa.
Lawmakers and counterterrorism officials fear some miscreants could exploit the VWP and travel to the United States. The VWP is revamped given the idea, say some Europeans who may have gone to Syria to train with ISIS, could then easily slip into the U.S. because of this program.
Travelers are not barred from the United States, but now they will have to go through a more rigorous visa application process to enter the United States. The administration’s plan would provide limited exemptions to those who have to travel to any of the seven countries as diplomats or for military service. Additional exemptions could be applied for humanitarian reasons or for journalists.
The U.S. Government also announced better tracking of past travel, fines for airlines that don’t verify passport data, assisting other countries on the screening of refugees and working with border security. It is also working on how to include better fingerprinting, photographing and an evaluation process, between the U.S. and its allies.