DHS works to expand, enhance visa waiver programs

The Homeland Security Department signed visa waiver program memorandums of understanding today with Slovakia, Hungary and Lithuania as part of DHS’ mandate to enhance and expand the electronic system of travel authorization.

The security agreements with the three European Union countries mean that they could be designated as visa waiver program members later this year, allowing citizens of those countries who meet certain requirements to travel to the United States without visas.

Last year, Congress made DHS responsible for strengthening the security arrangements that the country has with its visa waiver program participants, and the department has been working to reach agreements with members of the program. Twenty-seven countries currently participate.

Recently, the United States signed enhanced visa waiver MOUs with the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia. DHS is hopeful that list will expand rapidly.

Participants in the enhanced program will face new requirements, including being part of a new electronic travel authorization system that DHS is set to unveil later this year. Visa waiver program travelers will provide basic information online that will generate an authorization number for travel. Countries will also be required to ensure reporting of missing passports, enhance security measures at airports that originate flights to the United States and allow air marshals on some flights.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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