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Paris Attacks Prompt US to Tighten Visa Waiver Scheme

The United States announced on Monday, that it plans to step up security by tightening its current visa waiver program, including additional screenings and possibly suspending some countries from the scheme, in the aftermath of the the November 13 Paris attacks.

The US will begin screening visa-waiver passengers who have in the past visited countries considered “terrorist safe havens” – among them Somalia, Mali, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia and Venezuela, and is looking into requiring all countries in the waiver program to issue e-passports with chips and biometrics.

The current visa waiver scheme allows approximately 20 million visitors from 38 countries into the US every year.

The Department of Homeland Security will now expand the use of fingerprints and photographs to identify passengers and update its databases and will request additional authority to increase fines for airlines that fail to verify passport data.

A task force was set to meet in Washington today to discuss the changes and move ahead with relevant legislation expected to pass by year’s end, according to media reports.

Following the Paris attacks, a bill was passed barring refugees from Syria and Iraq from entering the US until security officials certify that they are not threats. The routine screening of would-be Syrian refugees before they are allowed to board flights to the US takes approximately 18 to 24 months.

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