March 13, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the full Senate voted for passage of S. 4, the Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The bill includes an amendment authored by U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) that extends visa-free travel privileges to our allies in the Global War on Terror. The amendment, called the Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2007, will improve cooperation with key allies while strengthening U.S. national security interests and promoting U.S. economic competitiveness. The bill was passed by a vote of 60 to 38.
“This is wonderful news for the Unites States and its allies,” Sen. Voinovich said. “I strongly believe we must maintain strong relations with our friends who are helping us fight the Global War on Terror. This legislation will improve both our national and economic security while helping to solidify relationships and improve good will toward the United States for years to come.”
Sen. Voinovich’s amendment authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of State, to expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to countries that support the United States and are prepared to do everything in their power to help keep terrorists from crossing our borders. Countries would be eligible to participate in the program only after the executive branch certifies that they do not pose a security or law enforcement threat to the United States.
The legislation would make the travel security standards and passport policies safer than they would otherwise be for participating countries. Security requirements for participation include biometric passports, strict passenger screening through an e-travel authorization system, passenger information exchanges, strict reporting of lost or stolen passports, airport and baggage security and agreements for home country repatriation of any visitors who violate U.S. laws. The provision will also require the Department of Homeland Security to monitor when VWP participants exit the country and improve procedures for measuring any potential overstays, to ensure compliance with the program.
“Our current visa policy is discouraging hundreds of thousands of peaceful and well-meaning people from visiting the United States for business and pleasure,” Sen. Voinovich said. “By severely limiting legitimate travel to the United States, we are dampening international good will and losing economic opportunities totaling millions of dollars.
“In addition to promoting U.S. national security interests, this legislation will increase business ties and tourism, benefiting our economy and competitiveness for years to come. This is a smart move that will advance America’s strategic interests.”
The VWP was established in 1986 to improve relations with U.S. allies and benefit the U.S. economy. The program permits nationals from selected countries to enter the United States for tourism or business without a visa for up to 90 days. Currently, 27 countries participate in the program.
Although numerous countries have expressed a desire to participate in the VWP, and a willingness to cooperate with the necessary security requirements, no new countries have been admitted since 1999. President Bush recently called on Congress to expand the VWP to deserving nations and has previously identified 13 “Road Map” countries as potential candidates for future participation. These include Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and South Korea.
Ms. Garrette M.K. Silverman
Senator George V. Voinovich
Fax: (202) 228-0501
Octobr 17, 2008 - President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program
Office of the Press Secretary/
White House News
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.
I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
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