Harder for Europeans to Visit US, CNN Says; Avramopoulos: Visa-free Travel for All EU Members

Photo: AP/EU

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said Tuesday that rules allowing Europeans to travel to the U.S. without a visa should be reviewed because of concerns over potential terrorism, CNN reports.

“Experts estimate that perhaps 10,000 citizens of Europe have joined the caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Thousands more are from nations in Asia, Africa and the Western Hemisphere. They have learned how to make IEDs, employ drones to drop ordnance, and acquired experience on the battlefield that by all reports they are bringing back home,” he said during an appearance at George Washington University.

 “We have to start looking very hard at that [visa waiver] program,” he said. “Not eliminating it and not doing anything excessive, but look very hard at that program.”
Kelly focused on the potential threat from Europe — a major source of tourists and business travelers to the U.S. According to Euromonitor, 14 million European citizens covered by the visa waiver program traveled to the U.S. in 2015, CNN says.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration and home affairs, said in a statement that he is in regular contact with Kelly on issues related to fighting terrorism. He also said that visa-free travel for all EU members remains a priority.

“The road linking the citizens of Europe and U.S. has to remain open,” said Avramopoulos. “At the same time it has to be closed to those who put in danger our security.”

One study forecasts a 10.6 million decline in visitors this year and next. The drop -nearly 7% of expected travelers- will cost the U.S. economy more than $18 billion and about 107,000 jobs, according to Tourism Economics, a forecasting firm used by the industry, CNN writes.

New York City, the largest U.S. destination for foreign travelers, is planning a $3.5 million ad campaign in foreign markets to drum up international travel.

The city had expected to see a 400,000 increase in foreign visitors in 2017, according to Tourism Economics, but it now expects a 300,000 decline.