It seems that hardly a day goes by without some discussion over visas and immigration. The Trump administration took steps in December to put new requirements in place regarding the countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program. A total of 38 countries currently participate in the program. The new requirements seem to be aimed at achieving the goals of preventing security threats and ensuring that visitors exit the United States after 90 days.
Officials at Homeland Security have assured the public that the new updates aren't the result of a specific threat that's been detected. They are part of an ongoing review process that is designed to protect the United States in the face of evolving threats from around the world. What do the new requirements mean for global travel? Anyone planning to pack their bags should first make plans to unpack the details of the updated policies.
A Look at the New Visa Waiver Program Rules
The current waiver program allows citizens of several countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without the need for a visa. However, travelers from participating countries do still need to obtain travel authorization before entering the United States. President Trump has made it clear that he feels that the current restrictions that are in place need to be tightened for the sake of increasing security.
The first thing to know is that the changes that are being implemented will apply to all countries in the program. Countries that participate in the program will now be required to use counterterrorism information provided by the United States to screen travelers when they cross one country's border from another country. While this may seem like a big change, the reality is that most countries that participate in the waiver program already do this. Individual countries will still be required to utilize their own intelligence information when analyzing potential security threats.
Countries will now also be required to take bigger actions when their citizens stay longer than is permitted while visiting the United States. Countries with high rates of overstays will be required to fund and conduct public campaigns highlighting the consequences of overstaying. The big penalty that visitors face when they overstay is being unable to visit the United States without a visa in the future. The Department of Homeland Security has revealed that the list of countries with the highest overstay rates includes Greece, Portugal and Hungary.
More Changes to Come
The changes introduced to the Visa Waiver Program in December are likely just the beginning. The United States will also begin assessing countries that participate in the program to determine just how effectively they are safeguarding against threats that are posed by insiders. It has been announced that the airport policies of participating countries will be screened. An emphasis will be placed on ensuring that airport employees and aviation workers are not corrupt or influenced to cause harm on flights bound for the United States.