US visa-waiver in peril if governments don't share data

US visa-waiver in peril if governments don't share data

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The US visa-waiver programme is "at risk" if governments do not share more passenger information with Washington, a senior member of the Obama administration warned yesterday.

US secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker told the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) global summit in Dallas: "The visa-waiver programme is at risk and we need your help.

"Given the presence of foreign fighters in visa-waiver programme member countries, the programme must evolve and change rapidly if it is to remain effective.

"Partner governments must significantly improve their ability to collect, share and use information to screen passengers."

Pritzker said: "We need to share more information. We need to develop systems to share passenger name records.

"The visa-waiver programme is at risk because people are scared and it is easy for politicians to terrify people."

"We need to have a system to track the bad guys."

But she insisted: "Visa waiver is compatible with greater security if there is greater information sharing."

About 60% of overseas visitors to the US enter under the visa-waiver programme.

Discussion of the impact on travel of recent terror attacks dominated the first day of the WTTC summit.

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill told the summit: "We have to resist an over reaction by governments. Closing borders and jeopardising the freedom to travel is not the solution.

"Beyond all the economic arguments, travel and tourism brings people together, provides employment across all levels of society and breaks boundaries."

US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said: "These are tricky times. There are many uninformed folks attacking the visa-waiver programme.

"The Paris and Brussels attacks have brought increased scrutiny here and around the world and improving visa security is paramount.

"If there is no security there is no travel, but we need a system that allows legitimate travellers to travel without hassle."

Dow said: "We need sensible enhancements of the visa-waiver programme."

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