DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Announces New VWP Security Enhancements

Eliza Grinberg's picture

On December 15, 2017, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will implement new security measures for the Visa Waiver Program [PDF version]. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worked with the Department of State (DOS) and other relevant agencies to develop the new VWP enhancements. In this article, we will outline the new changes announced by Secretary Nielsen.

VWP Countries

The DHS explains that it will implement the following security changes:

First, the DHS will require all VWP countries “to fully implement existing information sharing arrangements by systematically screening travelers crossing their respective borders against U.S. counterterrorism information.”

Second, the DHS will perform assessments of VWP countries “on the effectiveness of safeguards against insider threats in the aviation security environment.”

Third and finally, VWP countries with a two percent or greater overstay rates of business or tourism nonimmigrant visitors will be required “to initiate a public information campaign to reduce overstay violations by educating their nationals on the conditions for admission into the United States.” Anna Giartelli of the Washington Examiner reported that four VWP countries have overstay rates of two percent or more for business or tourism visitors: Portugal, Greece, Hungary, and San Marino [link].1

The DHS explained that it will develop “targeted engagement plans” to support the implementation of these new security measures. The DHS added that it has determined that these security enhancements “will not hinder lawful trade and travel.” Accordingly, the DHS does not expect that the changes will have a negative effect on those using the VWP.

The DHS also asked Congress to codify existing VWP requirements to enhance VWP security in the following areas (quoted):

  • Reporting of foreign terrorist fighter information to multinational organizations, such as INTERPOL and EUROPOL;
  • Systematically collecting and analyzing passenger travel data (Advance Passenger Information/Passenger Name Records); and
  • Concluding arrangements to permit U.S. Federal Air Marshals to operate onboard U.S. air carriers for last point of departure flights to the United States.

We will update the website with new developments on the VWP and other related issues. To learn about travel visas and the VWP in general, please see the full category on our website [see category].

To learn about the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, please see our blog on her confirmation [see blog].

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  1. Giaritelli, Anna. “Trump administration rolls out global campaign to combat those who overstay their visas in the US.” Washington Examiner. Dec. 15, 2017. washingtonexaminer.com