Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has said that the Trump administration has “to start looking very hard at” the United States’ Visa Waiver Program, remarks which could have implications for a long-running dispute regarding visa-free travel for Americans to Europe.
Kelly made the remarks during an appearance at George Washington University, CNN Money reports. Importantly, he said the look was not “eliminating [the program] and not doing anything excessive, but look very hard at that program.”
Kelley told CNN that a review is necessary because thousands of European passport holders have traveled to Iraq and Syria over the course of the Syrian conflict, and that many of them have fought for ISIS. Those combatants could then return to Europe and use the Visa Waiver Program to return to the United States and carry out terrorist attacks.
The remarks could have implications for travel from the U.S. to Europe The United States and European Union (EU) have been engaged in a long-running dispute regarding visa reciprocity between the two areas. A principle of the EU’s common visa policy, visa reciprocity requires countries whose citizens can travel visa-free to the EU to also allow visa-free travel from all EU member nations. Currently, the U.S. does not allow visa-free travel for citizens from Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria, all of which are EU members. If a country does not allow visa-free travel from all EU members, the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, can move to rescind visa-free travel from that country. According to Euromonitor stats cited by CNN Money, 14 million European citizens traveled under the Visa Waiver Program to the United States in 2015, so any move to alter the program could affect the type of visa-free travel that is at the root of the discussions.