U.S. enhances security screening for travelers from Europe, Asia

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 03, 2014 10:14 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington imposed tighter security screening on Monday for travelers from countries, including the United Kingdom and many other European nations, whose citizens do not need a visa to get into the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said people from countries in the U.S. visa waiver program will have to provide additional information on an electronic application they need to file to be eligible to enter.

"We are taking this step to enhance the security of the Visa Waiver Program, to learn more about travelers from countries from whom we do not require a visa," Johnson said in a statement.

U.S. officials have increasingly been concerned about the security threat posed by possible radicalization of foreign fighters in Syria who hold Western passports and thus would not arouse suspicion at airports or other entry points.

Thirty-eight countries participate in the visa waiver program, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other European countries as well as Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, according to the State Department.

In order to travel without a visa from these countries, visitors must get approved through an online system called Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, and pay a fee.

Under the rules that took effect Monday, people from those countries will have to provide additional information in their travel application submitted through ESTA.

The new information includes additional passport data, contact information and other potential names, Johnson said.

"We are also confident these changes will not hinder lawful trade and travel between our nation and our trusted foreign allies in the Visa Waiver Program," Johnson said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jim Loney)