In a report assessing the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)’s evolution and performance, London-based policy institute Chatham House outlined how the VWP, in its current form, is an extremely important security tool. Notably, the group emphasized how the VWP successfully balances security and economic priorities.
The VWP, which streamlines the U.S. entry process for thoroughly pre-vetted citizens of partner countries, provides one of the best sources of information for law enforcement officials. All VWP applicants are screened against multiple INTERPOL databases, and the biometric and biographic information they provide allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to efficiently screen for potential threats . This allows them to thwart potential attacks even before a suspect can travel to the United States.
Unfortunately, despite a wealth of evidence supporting it—including the testimony of security experts on both sides of the aisle, and recent enhancements made to the program—there are still critics who claim the VWP is a security vulnerability, not an asset. This type of criticism often arises in the wake of a terror attack or other security incident, and is often mistakenly focused on a suspect that arrived under another type of visa—not the VWP.
The VWP is a constructive example of an excellent deal for America. Further tightening or altering of VWP standards would not only do serious economic harm to the U.S.—it would also compromise our national security cooperation efforts with VWP countries, including those in the EU with critical intelligence on terrorist travel. This is a risk that we simply cannot afford.