The United States has tightened its border security measures in the name of preventing terrorist attacks. The heightened security rules will affect visitors arriving from 38 countries that participate in the U.S. visa waiver program. Some of the affected countries are European Union nations that have seen a large number of their residents relocating to Iraq and Syria to join forces with terrorist groups.
The increased security measures will require visitors from the 38 countries to use what are called e-passports. These are paper passports containing specialized chips embedded with biometric information. The Department of Homeland Security also announced that it will expand its deployment of U.S. air marshals to protect passengers on international flights.
Many Politicians Support the New Measures
The changes come after many U.S. lawmakers began showing support for tighter restrictions with regard to the travel waiver program. The waiver program allows foreign nationals from participating countries to enter the United States for as long as 90 days without a visa.
According to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein from the Senate Intelligence Committee, the travel waiver program could be abused by terrorists. She called it the "Achilles heel" of our nation's efforts to prevent U.S.-based terrorist attacks.
When announcing the new changes, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, "The current global threat environment requires that we know more about those who travel to the United States. This includes those from countries for which we do not require a visa."
Lost and Stolen Passport Checks Will Also Be Required
In addition to requiring an e-passport, the updated restrictions will also demand that travel waiver countries utilize a special international database to cross-reference individuals for stolen or lost passports. The new immigration measures will certainly make travel to the United States more difficult than it currently is for citizens of travel waiver nations.
U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow made several statements showing his support for the heightened passport security and increased number of air marshals. However, he said that his group is still looking into whether it approves of using international passenger databases and additional screenings of asylum-seekers, which are also a part of the security measures.
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