The U.S. Senate last week passed homeland security legislation designed to ease travel for foreign travelers entering the country.
The major travel-related provision in the â€śImproving Americaâ€™s Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007â€ť would expand the Visa Waiver Program by as many as an additional two dozen countries. The program currently allows citizens from 27 participating nations to enter the United States without a visa.
The Senate must now reconcile its version of the bill with the House of Representativesâ€™ version before it can be sent to President Bush for his signature. According to press reports, the President supports most of the provisions of the legislation but is threatening a veto unless language granting collective bargaining rights to federal airport workers is removed.
Under the proposed legislation, participating visa waiver countries will be required to adhere to stricter security provisions, such as strengthening airport security, providing travelers with biometric passports, and promptly reporting to U.S. authorities information about lost and stolen passports.
The legislation also has other traveler-friendly provisions. One would establish â€śmodel portsâ€ť at the top 20 American international arrival airports. The program would put a friendlier face on the arrivals process, including instructional videos and enhanced assistance for foreign travelers entering the U.S.
Another provision calls for the hiring of 200 additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to expedite the entry of foreign travelers into the U.S.