DHS Announces Security Enhancements to Visa Waiver Program
On August 6, 2015, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh C. Johnson announced the agency’s intent to implement security enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). He said that DHS, along with the Department of State and other federal agencies, will begin introducing “a number of additional or revised security criteria” for all VWP participants, to apply to both new and current members of the program. The VWP currently has 38 participating countries.
Most significant among the new security requirements, he said, would be required use of e-passports for all VWP travelers coming to the United States; required use of the INTERPOL Lost and Stolen Passport Database to screen travelers crossing a VWP country’s borders; and permission for the expanded use of U.S. federal air marshals on international flights from VWP countries to the United States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has noted that DHS is concerned about the risks posed by the situation in Syria and Iraq, where increasing instability has attracted thousands of foreign fighters, including many from VWP countries. Such individuals could travel to the United States for operational purposes on their own or at the behest of violent extremist groups in Syria, CBP warned. Among other things, DHS has expanded the amount of information collected by its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).