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The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is backing plans to strengthen the US visa waiver scheme in an effort to increase aviation security.
US Department of Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, revealed that further enhancements to the scheme could be introduced in the fight against terror.
A total of 38 countries can currently travel to the US without a visa.
The GBTA said it supports the efforts to work with US Congress to strengthen and put into law existing enhancements that add layers of security to the visa waiver programme.
“In the wake of the recent terror attacks, we need programmes like this now more than ever,” the association’s director of public policy, Shane Downey, said.
“Risk-based security programmes like the visa waiver programme, global entry or TSA’s [Transportation Security Administration] pre-check allow governments to focus their limited resources on the people we don’t know while safely facilitating travel more efficiently for those who have passed stringent background checks.”
Johnson said on Monday: “Many have noted that thousands of ISIL’s force consists of foreign terrorist fighters, including from countries in the visa waiver programme.
“It is for this reason principally that I directed a series of security enhancements to our visa waiver programme which took effect at the beginning of this year. Those enhancements have proven effective.
“In August I announced even more security enhancements to the programme.
“Many in Congress have asked whether legislation would assist in these efforts. The answer is yes. Working with Congress, we can put legislative teeth in our existing enhancements, and possibly make others.”
He added that the US was pressing to build pre-clearance capability at foreign airports around the world that have flights direct to the US.
“Pre-clearance means screening by our customs personnel at the front end of the flight, not the back end,” said Johnson.
“This provides us with a greater ability to prevent those who should not be flying here from doing so.
“Pre-clearance exists at 15 overseas airports now, and we are building more.
“In May I announced 10 overseas airports we have prioritised for pre-clearance. There are ways in which Congress can support and expedite our efforts to expand this programme.”
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