Visa Waiver Program, and More from CRS

12.09.15 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows foreign nationals from 38 countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The travelers must still present a valid passport and meet certain other requirements. There were 20 million visitors who entered the United States under this program in FY 2013.

“Concerns have been raised about the ability of terrorists to enter the United States under the VWP, because those entering under the VWP undergo a biographic rather than a biometric (i.e., fingerprint) security screening, and do not need to interview with a U.S. government official before embarking to the United States,” a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service observes.

“Nonetheless, it can be argued that the VWP strengthens national security because it sets standards for travel documents, requires information sharing between the member countries and the United States on criminal and security concerns, and mandates reporting of lost and stolen travel documents. In addition, most VWP travelers have to present e-passports (i.e., passports with a data chip containing biometric information), which tend to be more difficult to alter than other types of passports,” CRS wrote. See Visa Waiver Program, updated December 4, 2015.

The Visa Waiver Program was the subject of legislation to modify its requirements that passed in the House of Representatives yesterday. Among other things, the bill would exclude individuals who have visited Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Sudan since March 2011 from utilizing the visa waiver.

Other new or updated reports produced by the Congressional Research Service over the past week include the following.

Women in Combat: Issues for Congress, updated December 3, 2015

Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of the FY2016 Defense Budget Debate and the National Defense Authorization Acts (H.R. 1735 and S. 1356), updated December 4, 2015

Venezuelan Opposition Wins December 2015 Legislative Elections, CRS Insight, December 7, 2015

Spain and Its Relations with the United States: In Brief, December 4, 2015

Selected Securities Legislation in the 114th Congress, December 4, 2015

EPA and the Army Corps’ Proposed Rule to Define “Waters of the United States”, updated December 3, 2015

Factors Related to the Use of Planned Parenthood Affiliated Health Centers (PPAHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), December 3, 2015

District Court Holds Appropriations Language Limits Enforcement of Federal Marijuana Prohibition, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 4, 2015

Supreme Court to Decide Case with Important Implications for Tribal Authority Over Nonmembers, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 4, 2015

School Locker Rooms Become the New Battleground in the Gender (Identity) Wars, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 4, 2015