U.S. to Require All Visa Waiver Applicants to Use E-Passports
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) May 6, 2016 – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that all travelers entering the United States from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program would be required to have an electronic passport, known as an e-Passport.
An e-Passport includes an electronic chip that contains the traveler’s biographical information, which DHS said is a security enhancement and protection against identity theft. The new requirement took effect April 1 and affects travelers from 38 countries.
“The requirement that Visa Waiver applicants now must use an e-Passport is a reasonable balance to facilitate added protection against passport forgeries and identity theft, and ease of convenience in the use of the program,” said Stewart Rabinowitz, a Dallas immigration attorney with Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “The requirement only applies to Visa Waiver applicants; those without an e-Passport are still able to apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. consular post abroad.”
The new requirement was mandated by the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act passed by Congress in 2015. The Visa Waiver Program allows travelers from certain countries to come to the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.
DHS said that requiring e-Passports was the latest in a series of security improvements. In the past two years, DHS has also increased the amount of information it collects from travelers under the Visa Waiver Program, required Visa Waiver countries to share more criminal and terrorism information, and increased cooperation with those countries on screening asylum and refugee seekers. As of January 2016, travelers are ineligible for a Visa Waiver if they are dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or if they traveled to those countries or to Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011.