The Department of Homeland Security enacted new rules Friday aimed at limiting overstays and enhancing airport security for 38 largely European countries, whose citizens are allowed to travel to the United States without a visa—and the travel industry applauded. New requirements to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) require participating countries to share information with Interpol and Europol and screen passengers, particularly from other countries, based on U.S. counterterrorism information.
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said, “The security reforms to the VWP announced today offer a sensible approach to evolving this highly valuable program, which continues to be the gold standard for travel security and facilitation.” He added, “A secure travel system is foundational for all visitors. Without security, there is no travel.”
Visitors overstaying their visas have been pinpointed as security risks. A 2017 Homeland Security report acknowledged that tracking departing visitors is not completely accurate. The new rules will require countries with more than a 2 percent rate of visitors overstaying their time limit to launch public information campaigns about possible consequences of being in breach, including getting removed from the VWP program.
Other New Security Measures
- Requiring VWP countries to fully implement existing information-sharing arrangements by systematically screening travelers crossing their respective borders against U.S. counterterrorism information
- Assessing VWP countries on the effectiveness of safeguards against insider threats in the aviation security environment
What This Means for Events
The announcement included a note that “DHS has assessed that these security enhancements will not hinder lawful trade and travel. Qualified nationals will continue to be able to travel to the United States under the VWP. These measures will benefit all U.S.-bound visitors by promoting a safe and secure travel system.”
If the program continues to allow streamlined admission to the United States for attendees who follow the rules, then it makes coming together to share ideas possible.