Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

Visas in the News

Bill to Expand Visa Waiver Program
Could Feel Impact of Paris Terrorist Attacks

A big part of a proposed bill to update the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act (JOLT) aims to expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) — enabling both easier and more secure U.S. entry (hence proposing to rename it the “secure travel partnership program”).

The existing program allows citizens of participating countries, when they meet all requirements, to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or fewer.

[At press time, some U.S. politicians — among them Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — raised questions about the VWP in light of the Paris terrorist attacks this past Friday and threats of future terrorist actions. MeetingMentor will be closely watching these developments.]

Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Dean Heller (R-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced S.2091 in September. Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV) introduced H.R.1401 back in March, with 104 co-sponsors at last count.

Key revisions of the original act would:
— Authorize the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to designate any country to be in the program (currently with 38 countries).
— Authorize the Secretary of State to develop and conduct a pilot program for processing visas using secure remote videoconferencing technology, and also to coordinate enrollment and interview processes for people eligible for both a U.S. visa and enrollment in the Global Entry program.

(A separate component of the bill would admit into the United States qualifying Canadian citizens who are more than 50 years old and their spouses for a period of up to 249 days in a single 365-day period, if they maintain a Canadian residence and own or rent in the U.S. for the duration of their stay.)

U.S. Travel Association applauded the measure for its “impact on the security, efficiency and volume of inbound international travel.” The organization’s goal is to get the JOLT Act passed during the 114th Congressional session, which runs to the end of 2016. It is unlikely to be voted upon before Congress adjourns at the end of this year.

VWP application web site redesigned. Meanwhile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection redesigned the web site where VWP visitors go to apply for Electronic System for Travel Authorization before they travel to the U.S. More user friendly and functional, the updated site includes:
• Access to frequently asked questions at any time during the application process.
• Status check of their application on their smartphones.
• Page translation into 23 languages at any point in the application.
• Move of the “group” feature to the beginning of the application process, making it easier for groups to submit their applications at once. — Maxine Golding

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