View Full Version : Bush Wants More Countries in VISA Waiver Program??

Gayle in MD
11-29-2006, 01:06 PM
Bush wants more countries in visa-waiver program

By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY
President Bush said Tuesday that he wants more countries in a program that allows foreigners to stay in the USA without visas, despite criticism that the move could open the door to terrorists.
"We want people to come to our country," Bush said in Tallinn, Estonia, one of several European countries that have asked to be included in the visa-waiver program, in which 27 foreign countries now participate. "It's in our nation's interest that people be able to come and visit."

Bush said his administration aims to add more countries to the program, created to facilitate tourism and business travel 15 years before the 9/11 attacks increased fears of terrorism. He pledged to ensure that "those that want to continue to kill Americans aren't able to exploit the system."

Under the program, citizens from visa-waiver countries can travel to the USA for up to 90 days without a visa. To be eligible, countries must prove that only a small percentage of their citizens violate the terms of their visas and only a small percentage are rejected when they apply for them. Residents of waiver countries don't have to go through the time-consuming security interviews and checks required for those who must apply for visas.

Critics blasted Bush's plan as an expansion of a dangerous loophole in the nation's effort to secure its borders. Several terrorists including shoe-bomber Richard Reid and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui boarded planes to the USA with passports from visa-waiver countries.

"That's a step in the wrong direction," said Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general at the Homeland Security Department. "We ought to be ending the visa-waiver program, not expanding it. There's a reason why terrorists are keen to obtain passports from visa-waiver countries: They don't have to undergo extensive security checks."

In September, the Government Accountability Office found that "stolen passports from visa-waiver countries are prized travel documents among terrorists, criminals and immigration-law violators."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said any expansion of the program must include measures to make the USA safer. Among such measures would be a requirement that countries provide more information about airline passengers before takeoff so that U.S. officials would have more time to check their names against terrorist watch lists, he said. "I want a net increase in security," Chertoff said.

The travel industry backs Bush's plan. Rick Webster of the Travel Industry Association said, "The program is essential. It facilitates almost two-thirds of overseas travel. It's good for our economy and ... our diplomatic efforts. The end of the program would mean tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue and a worsened US image.
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Just what we need, huh? More illegals, from more third world countries, and no VISA's required????
Gayle in Md.