September 13, 2011, a proposal on expanding the visa waiver program to include Brazil, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus was submitted to the House of Representatives subcommittee on border security.
With an aim to promote the United States' tourism industry, the proposal will help loosen U.S. visa restrictions without affecting national security.
The possible extension of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) came after an extensive review by the Department of Homeland Security of the status of 1.6 million foreigners who had overstayed their visas to the U.S.
Under the VWP, international visitors from 36 participating countries are entitled to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. If the new proposal is approved, nationals from Brazil, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus will be entitled to travel to the US under the VWP.
The subcommittee has also debated how to screen visitors to the U.S. from these countries. Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has recommended that visitors to the U.S. be fingerprinted on both the way in and out of the country, as a foolproof method of tracking people who overstay their visas. The airlines, however strongly disapprove of a repeating fingerprint program. They complained that it was costly and impractical to repeat the process at departure. The Department of Homeland Security, therefore suggested new reliable methods to track over stayers at the subcommittee. The new methods will help carry out the process without fingerprinting people on their way out of the country. This will open the door for more countries to participate in the program without burdening the cost.