Nistration is examining how it might improve the vetting process for visitors and immigrants to the U.S. To this end, the Trump Administration is pursuing efforts to pressure other nations to provide the U.S. with greater data on U.S.-bound travelers.
” Elizabeth Culliford, “EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Demands Nations Provide More Traveler Data or Face Sanctions,” Reuters, July 13, 2017 , http://live.reuters.com/Event/Live_US_Politics/1012197528 (accessed August 9, 2017). U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Visa Waiver Program: DHS Should Take Steps to Ensure Timeliness of Information Needed to Protect U.S. National Security,” May 2016 , http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676948.pdf (accessed August 9, 2017) “
The desire for greater data is an important step toward greater security.
To gather more information on those coming to the U.S., there are multiple strategies the U.S. could employ. The Trump Administration is currently requesting more information from all nations, threatening travel sanctions if that information is not forthcoming. Another approach that has already proven successful is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and its intelligence-sharing requirements that countries meet in exchange for participating in the program. Rather than threatening countries with sanctions, the VWP accomplishes expanded information sharing by rewarding those who share with the U.S. This approach has the potential to dramatically improve the quantity and quality of data the U.S. needs to improve its vetting process. Policymakers should create a tiered program around the VWP that rewards countries for sharing additional information with the U.S.
🢂 The Central Role of Intelligence to Vetting
The best way to stop security threats from entering the U.S. is to have more data and intelligence. Our vetting systems, those that run a name or fingerprints against various databases, as well as in-person interviews, require good intelligence to prevent terrorists and criminals from entering the United States. Intelligence allows vetting databases to flag a known terrorist who is buying a ticket to the U.S., or instructs a visa interviewer to ask probing questions about mysterious or concerning behavior.
Thus it makes complete sense that the Trump Administration, with its concerns about foreign terrorists and the U.S. vetting systems, would turn to greater intelligence and information sharing as part of its extreme vetting measures. The Administration and Congress should be continually looking for ways to improve the information and intelligence that the U.S. receives from other nations.
🢂 Visa Waiver Program Successes
One of the U.S. programs that is most successful at getting other nations to share information with the U.S. on inbound travelers is the VWP. As a condition of participating in the VWP, nations must share information on known and suspected terrorists, serious criminals, and lost and stolen passports. This information is then fed into U.S. vetting processes, which improves the vetting of VWP and traditional visa applicants. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the VWP,
has enhanced U.S. traveler-screening capabilities and improved U.S. agencies’ ability to prevent known and suspected terrorists from traveling to the United States. According to FBI documents, from 2008 through 2015, the Terrorist Screening Center received information about approximately 9,000 known or suspected terrorists, including approximately 3,500 who were previously unidentified, through HSPD-6 arrangements with VWP countries.
” U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Visa Waiver Program: DHS Should Take Steps to Ensure Timeliness of Information Needed to Protect U.S. National Security,” May 2016 , http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676948.pdf (accessed August 9, 2017) “
Similarly, the GAO found that information shared as a result of the VWP “has aided criminal investigations.”
In exchange for this information and other security improvements that VWP member countries are required to make, the U.S. provides the citizens of member countries with visa-free travel to the United States. Visitors through the VWP are required to go through a similar vetting process as those who are not members of the VWP, but do not need to visit a U.S. consulate for a visa interview. This benefit makes the VWP a big boon to member countries’ citizens, and explains why they are willing to share additional information with the U.S.