This week the White House released a Fact Sheet detailing enhancements that are to be made to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which included several new security changes. The Administration explained that these enhancements are being implemented in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks in Paris.
In addition to enhanced security measures already made to the program over the course of the last year, including new security-related data fields and new traveler screening and information sharing requirements with VWP countries, the new changes announced in the Fact Sheet aim to aggressively strengthen the VWP and bolster relationships with VWP partner countries on an accelerated basis. More specifically, the Fact Sheet states that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will immediately take steps to modify its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) applications to capture information from VWP travelers regarding any past travel to countries constituting a terrorist safe haven. Additionally, the new enhancements will includes measures to evaluate and further facilitate terrorism-related information sharing between the U.S. and VWP countries including piloting real time biometrics checks on refugees and asylum seekers in WVP countries and working with Congress to increase penalties and fines for failure to comply with passenger screening requirements. The Administration indicated that it is working with Congress to provide statutory authority for many of the key security enhancements it has proposed to the VWP.
The Fact Sheet follows a Statement issued by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on August 6, 2015 discussing steps that have been taken to strengthen the screening of those who are traveling to the United States, including security enhancements to the VWP.