Tourism

Europeans Reconsidering Visa-Free Travel for Americans

Visa Waiver Program faces an uncertain future, though your summer vacation plans are almost certainly safe

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It's over for you, Tom. ||| Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

First the bad news for those Americans who enjoy traveling to Europe without having to first apply for a visa: The European Parliament voted one week ago to discontinue visa-free travel for U.S. passport-holders unless Washington extends the Visa Waiver Program (which allows for reciprocal 90-day visa-free travel arrangements between America and 38 nations) to the five countries in the European Union who are still on the outside looking in: Poland, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.

The good news: The European Parliament is a largely ceremonial body, stuffed with clowns, who have zero say in the matter.

But deepening political distrust on both sides of the Atlantic is chipping away at a system under which each year around 22 million foreigners enter the U.S. and an estimated 12 million Americans visit Europe. With overwhelming bipartisan approval at the end of 2015, the Obama administration removed from the VWP dual nationals from, and people who had traveled since March 2011 to, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria. Those who have also traveled in that time period to Somalia, Libya and Yemen are similarly exempt from the exemption. If those seven countries look familiar, they were the ones targeted in the Trump administration's first executive-order travel ban, and all but Iraq remain in the pared-back follow-up.

The new travel ban has the potential to put much bigger dents into Visa Waiver. Why? Because it instructs "the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence" to conduct a thorough review on each country's level of information-sharing when it comes to their nationals setting foot on U.S. soil. A preliminary report on the new specs is due within 20 days of the E.O. going into effect, then:

the Secretary of State shall request that all foreign governments that do not supply such information regarding their nationals begin providing it within 50 days of notification. […]

[Then,] the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion in a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of appropriate categories of foreign nationals of countries that have not provided the information requested until they do so or until the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies that the country has an adequate plan to do so, or has adequately shared information through other means.

Basically, the whole shebang of visa-screening is under review, and all European countries are on notice that they better adapt very quickly to the new vetting regime. Given that Donald Trump campaigned and won in part on this issue, that he slams Europe's refugee policies and Islamic terrorism policies at every opportunity, and that even libertarian-leaning politicians will happily hack off whole limbs of Visa Waiver in moments of crisis, there is almost nothing to suggest any political impediment to tightening those particular screws. As Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks, "of all the things to worry about, [admitting refugees] is down the list quite a bit. Visa waivers are quite closer to the top."

The typical Islamic terrorist in Europe nowadays is a second-generation immigrant, often holding just the one passport from a VWP country. Those people, unless covered by the exceptions listed above, can enter the United States for 90 days without a visa. That seems extremely unlikely to remain the case throughout the Trump presidency, even given the many alterations the program has seen since 9/11.

So is your planned vacation this summer to London or Paris or Rome in jeopardy? Nah; the economic fallout to an all-out visa war would be too brutal for both sides, so whatever happens will likely happen slowly. But the uncertainty remains, tourism to the U.S. is showing very preliminary signs of decline, and the unwinding of the post-war neoliberal project will continue speeding up pre-existing Fortress America trends while ushering in new realities that we can only begin to guess at. Given the absence so far of visa-screening operational requirements from the Trump administration, much of the near-term future of rich-world travel remains in the dark.

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34 responses to “Europeans Reconsidering Visa-Free Travel for Americans

  1. Damn, Welch, why you gotta bring Tom Hanks into this.

    1. I was somewhere very recently — airplane? hotel room? — when the totally-unknown-to-me Dante’s Inferno came on. It was…almost interesting in a kitschy kind of way and then oh my GAWD was it awful.

      1. Good point. If anything is grounds for a visa denial, participation in a Dan Brown adaptation ought to be it.

          1. My thoughts and prayers are with your slow ass.

      2. Inferno is a 2016 American mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard and written by David Koepp, loosely based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Dan Brown.

        I think I found the problem.

    2. I’m sorry, are we to believe that a Harvard professor, the world’s authority on religious symbology, would have any problems getting a visa to travel to the EU? Is that how deep TDS has taken root here, that we now think Robert Fucking Langdon would have any trouble getting to Rome or Paris? All because Trump?

      Also, is Amelie the Mona Lisa?

  2. The good news is that rising prices on imported goods and higher taxes to pay for the burgeoning police state will mean that most people won’t be able to afford travel to Europe anyway.

    1. Yeah but America will be so great (again) that why would you want to go anywhere else?

    2. If that’s the “good” news then please, for the love of god, don’t give me the bad news.

    3. The joke’s on Trump: a higher price for a Bordeaux or Rioja will only make them taste better. Suck it, Napa!

    4. What are these rising prices and taxes you speak of?

      As far as i recall no tax legislation has been passed and signed by trump

    5. Most people can’t afford a trip to Disney World let alone a trip to Europe. Something tells me that middle America won’t care all that much.

  3. Well, screw you guys, I’m going to England. Thank you Brexit!

    [sits in 400 year-old pub and drinks ale]

    1. Copper colored, cask conditioned ale, to all you beer snobs.

    2. I went to the UK two months before Brexit. I still feel like a chump. 🙁

      1. We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars . . .

        1. You are on fire with the masturbation euphemisms today.

  4. As if Europe would tolerate the inevitable reduction in American tourism money and business travel. That’s cute.

    It’s an empty gesture by Eurocrats who felt a need to posture over the recent US visa restrictions. It’s sad and pathetic. And why in the world, Welch thought this was article worthy is beyond me.

    1. Beat me to it.

      Oh no, I’ll have to spend a wad of cash somewhere else in the world!

    2. Is it regarding the middle east restrictions or those 5 euro countries or both?

      Admittedly i am still a bit lost

  5. The typical Islamic terrorist in Europe nowadays is a second-generation immigrant…

    YOU HAVE TO HAVE WELCOMED A FIRST-GENERATION IMMIGRANT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    Trump 1 Welch 0

    1. I’m only half convinced your reply is sarcasm because it’s a winning argument. The italicized text is a concession, perhaps unwitting, that there are real problems brought about by a certain categorical subset of immigrants.

  6. The European Parliament is a largely ceremonial body, stuffed with clowns, who have zero say in the matter.

    ^this.

    The EU Parliament has about as much power over immigration rules for individual member states as I do.

  7. What is neo liberalism again?

    1. Buzzword progressive “liberals” use to distinguish themselves from classical liberalism.

      Even though “neoliberalism” came first.

      I think they just thought “if neoconservatives are conservatives we hate even MORE, neoLIBERAL must be the word to use for liberals we don’t like!!”

      I think they’ve come to associate the prefex “neo-” with “bad”.

      I for one don’t really see why free marketers are so eager to adopt words the other side uses to slander against them. The communists came up with the word “capitalist” and the free marketers picked it up and used the word anyways. The progressives came up with neoliberal and now it looks like capitalists are embracing the label once more. I don’t get why these labels the progressives come up with are seemingly embraced by libertarians.

      1. Buzzword progressive “liberals” use to distinguish themselves from classical liberalism. “Neoliberalism” being their word for “classical liberalism”, if that wasn’t clear from what I initially wrote. (edit button when??)

        1. So these progressives think that Bill Clinton was a classical liberal? I think they made a few categorical errors in their initial assessment. I have to keep reminding myself how ignorant progressives are, I need to be careful not to give them too much credit.

      2. I”d think it would also be a word liberals could use to distinguish themselves from progressives.

        I may be misunderstanding how people are using it. But it seems like it refers to a return to an older meaning of “liberal” that says that government should stay out of people’s business unless they have a good reason. What makes a good reason will depend on your views on the proper role of government. But the “neo” isn’t saying that it’s a new thing, but that it’s a new set of people working with an old idea. Liek “neoplatonism” or “neoclassicism”.

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  9. To eternal

    Yea. Like Welch’s piece about neoliberalism is dead or something because trump wanted to put tariffs. I dont quite understand what neoliberal project was or is.

    Tariffs are bad but it seems odd to act like all these countries are complete isolationists and won’t trade at all. I doubt the tariff is anything more than symbolic

    Yesterday i read a WaPo article by the guy who founded washingtonmonthy regarding neoliberal creed. There was some stuff i could support but then it started blaming reaganites for our problems (didn’t say how) and seemed to be flirting with the notion that top men are needed to run society from the top/down since they are the experts

    1. If Bill Cinton-ism is the epitome of neoliberalism, then I take that to mean the people who describe the ideal state of the economy as a “mixed economy”. Basically a movement of post-Cold War Democrats that are less hostile to capitalism after 1991 but still clinging to a lite version of egalitariansm uber alles, regulation-as-law and a dash of tough-on-crime legislation. For Republican neoliberals it’s much the same policy positions but they come at it from a different angle, they’re ostensible free marketeers who’ve learned to love the welfare state and cling to some vestigial kind of nationalism.

  10. “The European Parliament voted one week ago to discontinue visa-free travel for U.S. passport-holders unless Washington extends the Visa Waiver Program (which allows for reciprocal 90-day visa-free travel arrangements between America and 38 nations) to the five countries in the European Union who are still on the outside looking in: Poland, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.”

    It’s hard to believe the UK doesn’t want to be part of the EU anymore.

    Has the European Parliament said anything about countries not keeping up on the NATO commitments?

  11. I fully support the revocation of “visa free” travel for Americans. I’m sure it will help to keep out hoards of environment destroying Yankees from places like Omaha Beach the next time.

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