DHS and State Officials:
Timely Expansion of Visa Waiver Program Important to National Security

May 25, 2007 - Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe yesterday, senior officials from the Departments of State and Homeland Security told lawmakers that the expeditious expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will enhance American security.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services Stephen Edson noted that "as security requirements are enhanced, admitting new countries to the VWP will strengthen our security overall." Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) agreed, asserting that "expansion would enhance security as a result of the standards that candidate countries must meet." When asked by Wexler about the potential negative consequences of delay in expanding the VWP, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Nathan Sales said "the longer it takes to implement reform, the longer it takes to bring these new [security] measures online."

Sales elaborated the Bush Administrationís plan for VWP expansion, under which both current and aspiring participants in the program would be required to accede to enhanced security measures. Such measures would include participation in the Electronic Travel Authorization system, more robust information sharing efforts, requirements for the reporting of lost and stolen passports, and guarantees to accept the repatriation of individuals refused entry or ordered removed from the U.S.

Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) also addressed the public diplomacy effects of VWP expansion, noting that it would be a "great help in boosting Americaís image." Wexler concurred, saying that there is "no single act that the United States could institute that would more positively impact public opinion in Europe than expanding the VWP."

Written testimony can be found online at the following addresses:

Sales: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/sal052407.pdf
Edson: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/eds052407.htm

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