Travelers from certain countries who to come to the U.S. may enter without obtaining a visa. This process is called the Visa Waiver Program because in certain situations when traveling to the U.S. for a short period of time the visa requirement is waived. The Visa Waiver Program applies to citizens and nationals of 38participating countries. However, after the Paris attacks that occurred last monthU.S. legislators are considering tightening up the Visa Waiver Program. The proposed changes could make it more difficult for some to visit the U.S. It is likely that the ease of travel for those currently covered by the Visa Waiver Program will change and now many may be required to undergo stricter security checks before traveling to the U.S.
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program allows visitors who are citizens or nationals of 38 participating countries to come visit the U.S. for up to 90 days for tourism or business. The 38 participating countries include Australia, Belgium, France,Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom amongst others. Those who come to the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program are generally also permitted to travel to Canada, Mexico or nearby islands and be readmitted to theU.S. Although the program attracts tourists because of the ease traveling without acquiring additional documentation, there is a strict 90 day stay and visitors may not overstay the 90 days.
What are the proposed changes?
Congressmen have suggested some reforms to the Visa Waiver Program and theseproposals could be incorporated into a bill that may be voted on in Congress. Oneproposal is increased information sharing between the U.S. and countriesparticipating in the Visa Waiver Program. Visitors may be required to submitfingerprints and photographs before traveling to the U.S. Those coming from Syriaor Iraq could face even stricter requirements, which may include anyone whotraveled to either of those countries in the past 5 years. Electronic passports mayalso be part of the changes. To pay for the increased security measures, the price ofthe visa waiver could be increased from the current price of $14.
These restrictions have been suggested after the Paris attacks because the allegedperpetrators were French and Belgium nationals. French and Belgium are two ofthe 38 countries that are eligible for a visa waiver. Those driving the visa waiverchanges argue that as the visa waiver program currently stands, the attacks couldhave easily happened in the U.S. if the attackers chose to come to the U.S. and easilyentered on a visa waiver. While the Visa Waiver Program has increased tourism andutilized by many for easy travel to the U.S., the recent attacks at home and abroadcould impose additional barriers for those who use the Visa Waiver Program totravel to the U.S.
To discuss the visa waiver program, other visa options or any other immigrationissue contact the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal. Attorney Khandelwal has over 10years experience in immigration law. The Law Firm of Sweta Khandelwal can assistwith business and family immigration matters.
Visa Waiver Program, U.S. Department of State