Updated 10:01 PM EDT, Tue, Sep 22, 2020

U.S. News: White House Announces Changes in Visa Policy Following Terrorist Attacks in Paris

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The White House announced changes in visa policy due to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

The United States government's visa policy, known as the Visa Waiver Program, or VWP, benefits 38 countries and allows visa free travel for 20 million visitors annually. In a communiqué published on Monday, the White House said that the country is "aggressively strengthening" its VWP and its relationship with its VWP partners to combat the "ongoing threat" from foreign terrorist fighters.

According to the announcement, the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, will "immediately" modify the applications for its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which permits visa-exempt foreigners to travel to the U.S. by boat or air. With that modification, ESTA, with coordination from the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Homeland Security, will require information about the applicant's past trips to "countries constituting a terrorist safe haven."

In addition, the DHS will also identify countries that are deficient in key areas of cooperation, such as the exchange of biometric information that includes fingerprints and photographs, the White House's announcement said.

From now on, the DHS will offer assistance to VWP nations to "better facilitate terrorism information sharing" and will ask Congress for authorization to increase Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) fines from $5,000 to $50,000. This is intended for air carriers that fall short when it comes to verifying a traveler's passport data, the press release explained.

The Departments of Homeland Security and State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. intelligence community elements are also set to work with other countries in deploying Foreign Fighter Surge Teams to fight terrorist travel, the announcement noted.

Another change announced by the U.S. government on Monday seeks to assist VWP countries "in screening refugees or asylum seekers" so that they can conduct "real time" biometric checks.

In a meeting held at the White House last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, vowed to strengthen their nations' military attacks on ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Fox News Latino reported that the two leaders urged the countries of the European Union to initiate a passenger information database immediately. This will put a stop to foreign fighters entering countries undetected.

"We must do a better job at coordinating between countries," Obama said, as quoted by Newsweek.

Hollande's U.S. visit was part of a diplomatic initiative that will have him meet the leaders of Russia, Britain, China, and Germany to boost an international coalition that will attack the extremist group, CNN wrote. Hollande and Obama both agreed on increasing airstrikes and widening the target list.

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