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Published on : Wednesday, December 9, 2015
The U.S. travel community firmly supports prudent security enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program. What we cannot support are steps that ultimately dismantle the program and set back America’s economy and our efforts to protect the homeland.
The Feinstein-Flake VWP bill contains a number of sound provisions, but there are a universe of unanswered questions that render the bill not ready for consideration. For instance, the collection of travelers’ biometric information appears to be redundant upon existing policy. Further, this legislation does not identify funding levels or facilitation and implementation plans.
Many layers of security screening exist when a visitor from a VWP country applies to travel to the United States: U.S. Customs and Border Protection vets travelers using all available advance passenger data and works in partnership with foreign law enforcement officials to evaluate potential risks.
The travel community is all in favor of a good-faith congressional debate about enhancements to the VWP, but if the Feinstein- Flake bill imposes redundant, costly, inefficient protocols, it could ultimately do more harm than good.
If traveling to the U.S. via the VWP becomes equally expensive and burdensome as applying for visa travel, would it not render the program obsolete? It could mean either hundreds of airports in other countries would be required by the U.S. government to install biometric stations to comply, or travelers would have to visit the U.S. consulate before traveling—just as they would for a visa interview. Either way, international travelers would be expected to pay for the elaborate, new biometric regime.