Immigration law

Trump Mulls Suspending the Visa Waiver Program 'Indefinitely' UPDATE: Story Was Wrong; it's the Visa Waiver Interview Program

Hope you enjoyed your visa-free travel to Europe while it lasted!

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As part of his first-week restrictions on the flow of human beings into the United States, President Donald Trump is reviewing a draft executive order (read it here) that would "block all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and restrict admissions and some visa applicants for people from countries where the U.S. has counterterrorism concerns, not only Syria but also Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen," according to the L.A. Times.

This targeting of war-ravaged, refugee-generating countries would be a radical departure from four decades of bipartisan Washington leadership in the absorption and resettlement of refugees. But the draft order wouldn't just affect faraway Muslims in miserable countries—it could also constrict your own ability to travel hassle-free to London, Paris, and Rome. How? By

creating new restrictions on visitors from some of America's closest allies. It would suspend the visa waiver program — widely used by citizens from 38 countries, including most European countries, Australia, Japan and Chile — which grants citizens of those countries a 90-day tourist visa after they submit their biographical information to a screening check. The new policy would require in-person interviews for most citizens from those countries.

UPDATE: I (like the L.A. Times above) got this story wrong: It's not the Visa Waiver Program, it's the Visa Waiver Interview Program, which is an entirely different, and smaller, kettle of fish. It's a waiver from having to come in for an interview to renew a current visa, not a waiver from having to obtain a visa in the first place. I apologize for the error. The rest of the original post can be found after the jump:

The Visa Wavier program is by definition reciprocal—my French in-laws have been able to come here for three months any time they want to, and in return I have been able to visit Europe for the (considerable!) price of a ticket. If the U.S. was to begin requiring in-person interviews to the roughly 22 million people a year who currently enter this country through Visa Wavier, then the favor would likely soon be returned to the more than 12 million of us who travel to Europe. If you make a good more costly, whether in price, compliance, or time, people will purchase less of it.

That would be unwelcome news to the estimated 5.5 million people who work in the American travel and tourism industry (roughly the same number as in the automotive industry, to pluck one sector out of a hat). Visa Waiver travelers spend about $80 billion a year inside the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service.

The Visa Waiver program has been coming under political pressure for some time now. In the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks, senators such as Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) removed from the program anyone from a Visa Waiver country that is a dual citizen of, or has traveled within the last five years to, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan. A new section on the Visa Waiver application form has been asking tourists this year to provide their usernames on various social media sites.

All of this is dwarfed in scope by suspending the entire program "indefinitely," and replacing it with a country-by-country certification process whose specs have yet to be ironed out. It's too early to say when and how American travelers will be inconvenienced by this proposed move, or whether it will amount to a measurable upgrade in security (will we be cockblocking Zacarias Moussaouis, or shifting terrorists' focus on the next Syed Farooks?). We can surmise, however, that if the order is adopted anything like how was written, fewer tourists will spend their money in the United States, Americans will soon have less latitude to frictionlessly move about the world, and the post-Cold War era of globalization will recede further into the rearview mirror.

* Again, this is the Visa Waiver Interview Program, not the Visa Waiver Program, and the original framing of this post was in error.

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  1. “a radical departure from four decades of bipartisan Washington leadership”

    If you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad.

  2. The Visa Wavier program is by definition reciprocal

    I’m sorry, but that’s kinda irrelevant. If we believe in the free movement of people then all this sort of thing does is legitimize a government’s power to restrict movement.

    After seeing what’s happened with the fight for gay marriage, I am no longer interested in half-measures that cater to the power of the status quo. Visas need to go – period. And nothing helps get rid of a stupid law faster than seeing it heavily enforced.

    Plus, when you get right down to it, who is this article directed at?

    Hope you enjoyed your visa-free travel to Europe while it lasted!

    How many of you just hopped on a jet over to Paris on a whim last weekend? For the vast majority of us, a European trip is not a last minute decision and so the *inconvenience* of having to ask for permission to enter an EU country and wait for an answer is small beans compared to what needs to be done to find the time to take the trip in the first place, let alone afford it.

    For the people who can afford to go on a whim – they’ll be able to get a visa at the border if necessary. The rest of us are taking our vacations in San Diego.

    1. How many of you just hopped on a jet over to Paris on a whim last weekend?

      That’s next week, actually.

      1. Hating you just a little bit right now, Groovus.

  3. What’s with the poster? We already know they’re un-American in Paris.

  4. If the U.S. was to begin requiring in-person interviews to the roughly 22 million people a year who currently enter this country through Visa Wavier

    No country that I’ve needed to get a visa for has required an in-person interview. Its all just fill out a form and mail it in. That’s not going to change for the Europeans trying to travel to the US.

    1. Wrong, there are countries in the European Union even where, to visit the US, you have to go to an in-person interview, and your success depends on the whims of the bureaucrat doing the questioning. I met an American working in such a capacity, and he was extremely arrogant, saying things like “I can size up a person within 10 seconds, and I can tell if they are worthy of a tourist visa or not.” I know of an elderly man who wanted to come to the US for medical treatment, but he was denied a visa despite bringing his titles to his apartment, his country house, and his land. Unfortunately he was not able to make it and he has since passed away after lengthy suffering. His sister (who was interviewed by a different bureaucrat) was given a visa, and enjoyed a trip, seeing DC, NY, Las Vegas and California before returning home to her chickens and garden plot and family.

      1. Sure – you have your anecdotes. You know people.

        I have mine – I’ve traveled to several countries outside of Europe and the only time I needed a visa i picked it up at the destination airport.

        And if the American officials are sizing people up ‘in 10 seconds’ then the line’s going to move pretty fast.

        But then the problem is having to ask for government permission in the first place – whether or not there’s a blanket permission in place.

  5. …and the post-Cold War era of globalization will recede further into the rearview mirror.

    GLOBALISTS, TRUMP HAS YOUR NUMBER.

    We’ll see how much of Trump’s campaign rhetoric survives reality and actually makes it to permanent practice. I can’t imagine he’s going to be the first president to follow through on his promises.

    Also, where’s my Filth Column?

  6. I doubt it.

    European governments are really going to be so childish as to restrict American tourism and the resultant flow of tourism capital simply because Trump makes it harder for them to travel here?

    I know you are, but what am I?

  7. Would be a damned shame if they had to go to nearby wealthy “allies” of the United States, like Saudi Arabia.

  8. From the huffpo link

    CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that according to the draft executive order, the visa waiver program would be suspended indefinitely. In fact, it would suspend the visa interview waiver program indefinitely.

    And the quoted section in the article seems to be missing – or I’m not seeing it due to iPad and/or stupidity.
    Can we apply O’Keefe rule to Vox, HuffPo and remnants of the Gawker Empire, please?

    1. I also love how shocked and disgusted they are by Trumps hate and vileness

      The executive order says that priority will be given in the future to refugees who face religious persecution, “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” In other words, an exception will be made for non-Muslims in the Middle East, which undercuts the argument that the policy does not target Muslims specifically.

      He should be more like PM Zoolander, who removed Christians and Jazidis from priority refugee status, because he found such a policy disgusting.

  9. Americans will soon have less latitude to frictionlessly move about the country

    Did you mean globe or am I missing something?

  10. The new policy would require in-person interviews for most citizens from those countries.

    Welcome to how billions of people travel abroad. Including those wishing to visit the US.

  11. block all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and restrict admissions and some visa applicants for people from countries where the U.S. has counterterrorism concerns, not only Syria but also Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen

    Extra dick move: there’s no exception for the Special Immigrant Visa program. That is, people who were translators for US forces in Iraq / Afghanistan and need to get out because militants are targeting them specifically for helping us.

    1. That is a dick move.

  12. I’m not pointing the finger at Welch, here, specifically, but an awful lot of people in the media seems awfully predisposed to believing the very worst about the Trump administration.

    We all gotta take a deep breath.

    We looked at Bush objectively for eight years. The awful things he did were awful because they were awful–not because he was Bush. We did the same thing with Obama. We can do the same with Trump.

    Any time we think what Trump is doing the worst thing ever in some regard, we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves if we’re being objective.

    I question Obama’s judgement on some of his latest moves with refugees. This deal he did in December (after Trump won) to accept some 1,300 refugees, mostly Muslims from the Middle East and Africa, that the Australians refused to accept was especially odd.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us…..c-islands/

    The Australians screened these people and refused them entry into Australia. What did Obama know that the Australians didn’t know?

    My guess is nothing.

    I suspect Obama accepted them, effectively by executive order, out of spite and without serious regard for American security. It makes a lot of sense for the Trump administration to meticulously go through the things Obama did since the election. Whatever else Obama is, he also has a history of making poor decisions about American security interests, of being ideologically rigid, and of being vindictive.

    1. There you go making sense again.

    2. The Australians screened these people and refused them entry into Australia. What did Obama know that the Australians didn’t know?

      What Obama did not know was that the Australians have a new White Australia policy where it wasn’t important what a person’s skin color but whether that person behaved like a White Person.

      Hence the test for points to qualify for admission to Australia is full of things that White Peoplevalue, like education, first-world job skills etc.

      1. I’m fairly sure that the people Australia rejected were short of things like university educations, skills in hi-tech etc.

        1. I do not believe Australia has a new White Australia Policy.

          I certainly don’t see it from that link. That link says that the White Australia Policy was dismantled between 1949 and 1973.

          It also says:

          “In 1975, the Whitlam Government passed the Racial Discrimination Act, which made racially based selection criteria unlawful. In the decades since, Australia has maintained largescale multi-ethnic immigration. Australia’s current Migration Program allows people from any country to apply to migrate to Australia, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, or language, provided that they meet the criteria set out in law.[3]

          Later, it says that some 15% of Australia’s population speaks some language other than English at home, and among the most popular other languages is Arabic.

          1. Yeah, sure Ken.

            Except that everything I the current Australian Immigration policy is essentially consistent with the old one, except for exclusion on the basis of skin color or country of origin. The Australians still want immigrants who act like white people so as not to disrupt their social norms.

            Fine so they still got a few holdouts who like their old language etc but for the most part they still mange to keep out the Kanakas, nignogs and wogs, if you know what I mean.

  13. I (like the L.A. Times above) got this story wrong

    All fake news all the time. Y’all should rebrand and decouple the website before it totally destroys the reputation of the magazine

    1. before it totally destroys the reputation of the magazine

      How do you destroy the reputation of something 99.99% of people have no idea exists?

    2. They would seriously be better off using Prison Planet as a source.

  14. Matt Welch, so your article was Fake But Accurate ™?

    1. No! I got it wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if Visa Waiver gets nuked in the next four years, but it ain’t getting nuked now.

  15. UPDATE: I (like the L.A. Times above) got this story wrong:

    The story linked in the first paragraph makes no mention of getting anything wrong, or having been corrected.

    its last paragraph says =

    The order goes beyond the Muslim world, however, creating new restrictions on visitors from some of America’s closest allies. It would suspend the visa waiver program ? used by citizens from 38 countries, including most European countries, Australia, Japan and Chile ? which grants citizens of those countries a 90-day tourist visa after they submit their biographical information to a screening check. The new policy would require in-person interviews for most citizens from those countries.

    Isn’t that bolded bit exactly what you’re saying is *not* happening?

    The list of updates at the bottom of the story mentions no edits since ~3:35PM.

    Is this going to be like the “Russians hack the energy grid” thing, where they never technically admit fault, and instead just massage their claims?

    1. As I sad above, huffpo, where the story originated, did a correction.
      I guess LA Times crew checked out before then, and b tomorrow it’s old news. In the meantime, it makes the right-thinking people panic about their Tuscany vacations.

  16. Thanks for the insincere apology – the article title didn’t change.

    1. It’s updated now.

      I feel bad for Welch, but he was much classier going about fixing his mistake than a contributor who shall remain nameless when xe messed up.

    2. Isn’t that weirdly backward? I changed the title of the article, and apologized sincerely. Anyway, the man with the egg on his face is in no position to complain, etc.

      1. What I don’t get is why you still have all that text that is based on the false story. It’s garbage — throw it out.

        If you don’t want to be accused of memory-holing, put a strike through it or format it in white on white text, so people can see it if they highlight, but can also clearly see that it’s not intended to be taken as truth.

  17. If you know the original article was incorrect, then correct ALL of it. It’s both daft and confusing to keep the parts that are incorrect…

  18. This article is wrong.

    Why is it still here?

    The ‘alternate facts’ (truth) came out and slapped the pants-shitters in the face AGAIN.

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