The Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA), a US advocacy leader on identity management policy, has offered support on proposed changes to the country's Visa Waiver Program (VWP).By an overwhelming majority, the US House of Representatives this week voted to strengthen the visa waiver program in the aftermath of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, with any foreign national who has visited Iraq, Iran, Syria or the Sudan in the past five years now prevented from entering the US without a visa.However, the Administration and Congress are examining ways to further increase the security of the VWP. Currently, more than 20 million visitors from 38 different countries can enter the United States each year without undergoing an interview and biometrics enrollment at a designated U.S. consulate – the VWP was created by the U.S. Congress in 1986.. “These government initiatives were installed in a different era, and we are now facing new border security challenges with the rise of ISIL, which has recruited thousands of foreign fighters from countries that participate in the VWP. The refugee crisis in the EU and the Levant, which has contributed to a large market for fraudulent passports, is also a new identity management challenge,” remarked Michael Dougherty, SIBA's Chief Executive Officer.”In order to preserve the benefits of visa-free travel, which is worth billions of dollars to our economy,” Dougherty continued, “the US will need to further adapt and strengthen the VWP. As a policy and best practice advocacy association, SIBA applauds the balance that the Administration and Congress are trying to strike between enhancing security and the benefits that follow from business and tourist travel to the US”A House bill on the VWP, which is anticipated this week, recommends that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) issue standards for the introduction of electronic passports containing “biographic and biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of travellers through an embedded chip”.SIBA added in a statement that there tremendous latent potential in electronic passports that can be explored. The chips in e-passports can be configured to store multiple modes of biometric data including iris, facial and fingerprint images.”It is very interesting to look at what ICAO is planning for its next optional standard for e-passports in 2016,” commented Dougherty, “which would allow government authorities to actually write to the chip as the passport is used, so that visas and travel stamps would be electronically included on the passport.” This capability of recording usage on the chip could help border authorities determine whether the traveller had visited a country or region of conflict that raises concerns, in addition to preventing fraud and the use of loss or stolen passports. The end state should be a fully-automated reading of the passport, as well as secure data-sharing of the passport's authentication history, to facilitate the process of vetting VWP travellers.