November 4, 2014
US Homeland Security amends visa waiver program conditions
At a time when it has been estimated that over 500 British ‘soldiers’ have travelled to Syria and Iraq, many to join Isis, and with the proliferation of self-radicalization via the internet, the US’s visa waiver program now appears to be too vulnerable. 38 countries are involved in the visa waiver program which includes most European countries, together with Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea. Ordinarily, nationals from these countries would not have caused concern and hence the existence of the visa waiver program, but times have changed and so has the nationality of terrorists. As a result US Homeland Security has had to adapt to changing times.
While the Visa Waiver Program still exists, to now be eligible to enter the US without a visa, additional information will have to be provided by electronic means according to a statement provided by Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security Secretary. No longer does having a Western passport automatically come with a level of reassurance; instead suspicion is now the watchword wherever anyone wishing to enter the US comes from. As a consequence and despite still not requiring a visa, visitors to the US will be required to obtain approval via an online system referred to as Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, or ESTA, which also involves paying a US$14.00 fee. The additional information required under the new ESTA rules and regulations includes passport data, contact information and any other names the traveller has had. One assumes this last element relates mostly to Western women who are also becoming radicalized and who travel to Syria to marry Isis soldiers.
Johnson is optimistic that these amendments will have little overall effect on the program, stating: “We are also confident these changes will not hinder lawful trade and travel between our nation and our trusted foreign allies in the Visa Waiver Program.”