During a visit to George Washington University recently, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly indicated that the Trump administration is going to “start looking very hard” at the Visa Waiver Program. This hard look could have major implications, both for people visiting the United States and for US citizens hoping to visit Europe.
The Visa Waiver Program is a program that allows citizens from most members of the EU to visit the United States as tourists without a visa. In return, citizens of the US are able to visit those same countries without a visa.
Currently, there are five exceptions to the Visa Waiver Program. Citizens from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania must obtain visas to enter the US, even though all five countries are in the EU. The EU has been upset about this for some time. Now things could get much more contentious if the Trump administration decides to alter or limit the Visa Waiver Program.
Kelly apparently told CNN that the administration is planning to review the program because many people who hold European passports travel to Iraq and/or Syria. Evidently, the Department of Homeland Security is worried that people from EU countries might be secret ISIS fighters, and therefore need to be scrutinized more carefully before being allowed into the US.
Revoking the Visa Waiver Program entirely could have dire consequences. For one thing, it would substantially lower the number of Europeans who visit the United States. One study found that suspending the Visa Waiver Program would result in a 23% decline in travel revenue for the United States and 73,000 lost jobs.
Ending the waiver program would also almost certainly mean that US citizens would need to start getting visas in order to visit Europe. In addition to the added expense and lost jobs on both continents, the result would be a more suspicious world order with less willingness to cooperate and support one another.
Such a situation would mean that less people are able to travel internationally, which is terrible news for the whole world. Travel is the best education anyone can have. It shows us all firsthand that we’re much more alike than we might think.
Hopefully this “hard look” won’t amount to anything, but if changes occur, we will certainly keep you up to date about any new visas that you may need in order to visit Europe in the coming months.