The Administration supports making the Visa Waiver Pilot Program permanent
and therefore supports House passage of H.R. 3767. However, the
Administration has concerns about the legislation as currently written and
will continue to work with Congress to ensure that implementation of the
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) protects both foreign policy and law enforcement
interests of the United States.
The Administration strongly supports the provision in the bill that would
allow recognition of ''common areas for immigration admissions'' for the
purpose of determining that a reciprocal period of stay will be granted to
U. S. citizens.
The Administration agrees that a permanent visa waiver regime requires
certain safeguards to ensure that a country's continued participation in
the program in no way threatens U.S. interests. H.R. 3767 proposes several
measures to tighten up the existing program, including requiring VWP
visitors to enter the United States with a machine-readable passport (MRP).
However, the Administration finds the compliance dates in the bill too
restrictive, and the Administration would suggest allowing countries eight
years before their citizens would have to enter the United States with
MRPs, rather than the six years that would be permitted by the bill. The
Administration also has concerns with other provisions, including those
allowing precipitous removal of a country from the program, which could
have large administrative resource implications caused by a sudden demand
for visas, and the automatic termination clause of the reporting
requirement, which seems unnecessary and unduly harsh on the affected VWP
The Administration also supports important additional provisions to ensure
success of the VWP. The Administration will seek a provision that would
require countries, as a condition of initial qualification, to conclude
agreements with the United States that ensure that U.S. law enforcement
interests are fully protected. Also, requiring reports of lost and stolen
blank passports of new countries will aid officers in identifying
terrorists and criminals traveling to the United States using
fraudulently-obtained VWP passports and enable the Immigration and
Naturalization Service to more effectively identify evidence concerning an
applicant's inadmissibility on criminal grounds. The Administration will
also seek to establish requirements, based upon passport abuse and
nonimmigrant visa violation rates, for both initial selection and for
automatic review of continued participation in the program, in order to
encourage countries to protect the integrity of their passports.
While noting the concerns above, the Administration supports a strong,
permanent Visa Waiver Program to advance foreign relations and U.S. travel
and business abroad.