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3rd Dec 2022

EU threatens to impose visas on US citizens

  • Thirteen million European citizens travel to the US each year (Photo: angeloangelo)

US citizens may require visas to enter the EU should the United States move ahead with plans to scrap visa-free travel for select EU nationals.

Twenty-eight member state ambassadors to the US made the threat on Monday (14 December) in an op-ed in The Hill after the US House of Representatives voted in support of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015.

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The US bill would ban certain EU nationals from entering the US without a visa if they had visited Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan after March 2011.

All four are seen as terrorist hotspots which attract "foreign fighters" - radicalised Muslims from Europe.

The US proposal follows the 13 November attacks in Paris by French and Belgian nationals. The terrorists, acting on behalf of Islamic State, killed 130 people and injured scores of others.

Fears are mounting in the US that foreign fighters may attempt to launch a similar attack on US soil.

A visa requires greater scrutiny, including face-to-face interviews at US consulates, and more paperwork.

“We want to make sure that terrorists don’t come to the United States," House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, was quoated as saying in USA Today.

Under the bill, the US Department of Homeland Security can suspend countries from the visa free list if they are deemed a security risk.

Writing on behalf of the 28 ambassadors, the EU's top diplomat to the US, David O'Sullivan, said the legislation "could trigger legally-mandated reciprocal measures."

But O'Sullivan said such moves would most likely only affect legitimate travel by businesspeople, journalists, humanitarian or medical workers.

"Compulsory biometric checks at the port of origin would represent the de facto introduction of a visa regime in all but name; such indiscriminate action against the more than 13 million European citizens who travel to the US each year would be counterproductive, could trigger legally-mandated reciprocal measures, and would do nothing to increase security while instead hurting economies on both sides of the Atlantic," he wrote.

He noted the US visa waiver programme with EU member states already has built-in security features and that EU states want to improve information exchange and cooperation with the United States.

But O'Sullivan's pleas may not be enough to muster opposition to the new law.

The proposal still needs to pass the US Senate and to be signed into law by president Obama, but it has gained widespread support.

The US has a visa waiver programme with all EU member states except Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Croatia.

EU states could lose US visa waivers

US lawmakers preparing to vote on bill that could see select EU states lose visa waiver perks if they don’t comply with stricter security measures.

EU Commission rejects retaliatory visas for US citizens

European Parliament demands to impose visas on visitors from the United States were cast aside by the European Commission. Bulgarians, Croatian, Cypriots and Romanians still require a short-stay visa to enter the United States. MEPs say it is discriminatory.

EU counts cost of US visa war

US nationals could be forced to seek EU visas from mid-October. But the move would be a "disaster" for bilateral relations and would cost billions if implemented.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

The EU executive, on the other hand, is expected to approve Hungary's recovery plan, worth €5.8bn, but only would disburse actual money if Hungary delivers on some 27 key reforms.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

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