U.S. Moves to Tighten Visa Waiver Program After Paris Attacks

30 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After Paris, Obama Administration Changes Visa Waiver Program.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says the House will aim to pass legislation by year’s end overhauling a program that allows visa-free travel to the U.S.Stung by criticism that President Obama lacks a strategy to defeat the Islamic State, the White House blasted CongressMonday for shirking its responsibility to pass measures to defend the homeland.

The Obama administration has announced some changes to the visa waiver program, which allows travelers from some 38 countries including France, Belgium and other European countries, to come to the U.S. without a visa.WASHINGTON — The United States will begin screening passengers entering the United States under a visa waiver based on any past travel to a country known as a terrorist safe haven, the Obama administration announced Monday. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said lawmakers have been busy “posturing” over security but have taken few, if any, concrete action to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. But among Britain’s 50 million passport holders, an estimated five million currently possess older travel documents which do not contain a biometric microchip.

He outlined several steps that the administration is taking in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks on Nov. 13 and called on lawmakers to act on four security proposals before leaving Washington for the Christmas holiday later next month. “We are clear-eyed about the stakes,” Mr. It is also promising reports to the president in two months from the State Department and the FBI about how to include better fingerprinting and photographing, as well as an evaluation of the state of intelligence coordination between the U.S. and its allies. The Homeland Security Department is modifying travel authorization applications to capture information from travelers who in the past have been in any country deemed a terrorist haven. They include requiring all countries to issue electronic passports and requiring all passengers to be screened against a database of lost and stolen passports.

Apart from Britain, 37 other countries are permitted to take part in the existing visa waiver scheme, allowing visitors to remain in the US for up to 90 days. He also urged Congress to confirm the Treasury Department’s top counterterrorism official, ban people on the “no fly” list from buying guns, and update the legal authority to use military force against terrorist groups. The microchips were first introduced in Britain in 2006, and with 50 million UK passports in total in circulation it means roughly five million non-biometric documents have about a year left to run before they expire.

For example, DHS and the Terrorist Screening Center will assist all interested VWP countries in screening refugees or asylum seekers, including through the application of extensive terrorism information already provided to VWP members and through piloting capability for conducting near real time biometric checks. “· The Secretaries of DHS, State, and Commerce will promote the Global Entry program among VWP partners to further expand this trusted traveler program, which includes biometrics. “· The Secretary of Homeland Security will work with Congress to seek authority to increase Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) fines from $5,000 to $50,000 for air carriers that fail to verify a traveler’s passport data. “· The Departments of Homeland Security and State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. intelligence community elements will deploy Foreign Fighter Surge Teams to work with countries to counter terrorist travel. “· The Departments of Homeland Security and State will encourage and provide assistance as needed to enhance border security and legislation related to FTFs of our partner countries, and encourage more robust information sharing, better use of shared information, and more effective and efficient coordination between our partners.” But Congress was had already considering legislative changes in the visa-waiver program as early as September, when a House Homeland Security Committee task force recommended updating passports to include identifying information embedded in a microchip.

The actions come even as President Obama is moving ahead with plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, a proposal the House has voted to delay due to concerns about terrorism. Senate Democrats unveiled proposals Nov. 19 to require interviews at U.S. consulates overseas for any travelers from visa-waiver countries who have visited Syria or Iraq during the previous five years. The administration said it will also look at pilot programs using biometrics to bolster security; and identify countries that are “deficient” in cooperating with the program.

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