Trump administration issues new rules on
U.S. visa waivers
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[December 16, 2017]
By Yeganeh Torbati
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump
administration put new requirements in place on Friday for the 38
countries participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, including that
they use U.S. counterterrorism data to screen travelers, officials said.
The program allows citizens of mainly European countries to travel to
the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. Citizens from the 38
countries are required to obtain a so-called travel authorization to
enter the United States.
President Donald Trump has sought to tighten the rules for those seeking
to visit or live in the United States in several ways, saying
restrictions are necessary for security reasons.
The changes will apply to all countries in the program. One change is
that they will be required to use U.S. information to screen travelers
crossing their borders from third countries. Many countries in the
program already do that, one administration official said.
Countries whose citizens stay longer than authorized during visits to
the United States at a relatively higher rate will be required to
conduct public awareness campaigns on the consequences of overstays, the
officials said. One existing penalty is that people who overstay a visit
may not travel visa-free to the United States in the future.
The threshold for the overstay rate triggering the public information
campaign requirement is two percent, the officials said. In the 2016
fiscal year, of the VWP countries, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, and San
Marino, a wealthy enclave landlocked inside central Italy, had total
overstay rates higher than two percent, according to a report by the
Department of Homeland Security.
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International travelers (reflected in a closed door) arrive on the
day that U.S. President Donald Trump's limited travel ban, approved
by the U.S. Supreme Court, goes into effect, at Logan Airport in
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian
The overall overstay rate for VWP countries is 0.68 percent, lower
than non-VWP countries excluding Canada and Mexico, which is at 2.07
percent, according to the DHS report.
Members of Congress have expressed concern about the security risks
of overstays. A May 2017 report by the DHS inspector general found
the department lacked a comprehensive system to gather information
on departing visitors, forcing it to rely on third-party data to
confirm departures, which is sometimes faulty.
The United States will also start assessing VWP countries on their
safeguards against "insider threats" at their airports, especially
those with direct flights to the United States, officials said.
The goal is to ensure countries "make sure that airport employees,
aviation workers et cetera, aren't corrupted or are co-opted to pose
a threat to aircraft, especially those that are U.S.-bound," an
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Grant McCool)
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