US Visa Waiver Program Tightens Due to Recent Terror Attacks

As a result of the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13, 2015, the United States has implemented changes to its visa waiver program, which allows travelers from 38 different countries to visit the US for up to 90 days without being required to obtain a visa.

Tightening the Visa Waiver Program

Congress made the decision to tighten the visa waiver program, which allows roughly 20 million travelers into the US each year, in an effort to improve security against potential threats. Since ISIL’s force is made up of terrorists worldwide, many of whom are citizens of countries included in the visa waiver program, the US will be screening certain passengers traveling to the US on a visa waiver. In addition, there is concern that terrorists may be able to enter the US easily on lost or stolen passports of citizens from visa waiver countries.

Passengers who are from countries included in the visa waiver program may be required to undergo screenings or interviews before entering the US as a result of the changes.

Visa Waiver Program Countries

BruneiChileCzech RepublicDenmark
NetherlandsNew ZealandNorwayPortugal
San MarinoSingaporeSlovakiaSlovenia
South KoreaSpainSwedenSwitzerland
TaiwanUnited Kingdom  

Changes to Visa Waiver Program

One of several changes being made to the program is the new requirement for passports to include an electronic microchip containing personal information, allowing the US to more easily track and identify passengers. Another change that is planned is allowing Border Security Personnel to ask if travelers if they have been to countries that support terrorism in the past five years.

The bill that would implement these changes aiming to strengthen the program is scheduled for a vote. If passed, the 38 countries included under the visa waiver program would be required to issue new “e-passports” to their citizens containing fingerprints, photographs, and other information the US may use to more easily identify travelers who have visited certain countries in the past that are considered “terrorist safe havens.”

Under the bill, these 38 visa waiver countries would also be required use INTERPOL databases to check if travelers have been associated with any past terrorist or criminal activity.

As a result of these changes, the US Government has already begun tightening entry into the US with biometrics testing. Read about the recently implemented Otay Mesa Entry/Exit Strategy that has tightened the requirements of people entering and exiting the United States.