Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Following the recent
attacks in Paris, travelers and government officials alike have been
wondering: What exactly would have stopped a Belgian- or French-based
terrorist from stirring up serious trouble on American shores? The answer as
it stands is unsettling.
Currently, passport holders from 38 countries are
able to enter the U.S.
via the Visa Waiver Program, a relatively lax standard
meant to facilitate travel between politically stable countries.
But lawmakers
are waking up to a new reality, and putting forth a new series of regulations
that will tighten security for visitors to the U.S.
Among the changes hitting effect immediately: the process used to verify
travelers' identities will now include a thorough screen of countries
they've visited previously.
This second layer of screening will help the
U.S.
track down individuals who have been to "terrorist safe havens" and
prevent them from entering the country. The U.S.
will also begin a more
robust information sharing relationship with partner countries in an effort to
identify terrorist safe havens and individual threats on a global level.
Further regulations will require the green light from Congress, but would go
the extra mile in thwarting terrorists who may be traveling with stolen or
lost passports.
The one that should have the greatest impact? Requiring
biometric information on passports from Visa Waiver-approved countries.
This
would help customs agents identify travelers not just by photo or name but
also by fingerprints or facial recognition.
Also on lawmakers' priority
lists: increasing fines from $5,000 to $50,000 if airlines fail to verify
passenger passport information.
For U.S.-based travelers, the impact is minimal, but the government is
making a bigger push than ever before to get passport holders enrolled in
Trusted Traveler programs such as Global Entry, which meet the most exacting
biometric requirements and safety standards.
If you're not yet enrolled (and
really—what have you been waiting for?), now might just be the time to do
so.
Lawmakers are putting forth a new series of regulations that
will tighten security for visitors to the U.S.
Read on.

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