Immigration Bill Gives Hong Kong Access to the Visa Waiver Program
12:46 PM, Jun 24, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Speaking about Hong Kong's decision to let NSA leaker Edward Snowden leave, without handing him over to American authorities, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that "we find their decision particularly troubling." Carney added that their decision "unquestionably has a negative impact" on U.S.-Hong Kong relations, and called it a "setback."
Which is all very relevant to the immigration bill, which Congress is currently debating and which will be voted on later today in the Senate. That's because on pages 1020-1021, there's a special provision giving Hong Kong access to the Visa Waiver Program.
Here's the wording in the bill:
The amendment to the bill was attached in the Judiciary Committee by Senator Mazie Hirono.
A one-page backgrounder for the amendment describes the Hong Kong provision like this: "The Visa Waiver Program (VWP), created in 1986, is an essential tool for promoting travel to America while protecting national security by allowing pre-cleared business and leisure travelers from 37 countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a non-immigrant visitor visa. To qualify, countries must meet stringent security requirements, including a very low non-immigrant visa rejection rate, reciprocal treatment for U.S. citizens, passports with biometric identifiers, and close bilateral law enforcement cooperation with U.S. authorities. Hong Kong is strong in all these areas."
One Senate aide, responding to the amendment in light of Snowden, says, "Hong Kong historically has had a close economic relationship with the U.S. so this amendment made a lot of sense when it was offered. But after they undermined our national security and let Snowden leave yesterday, are we really going to reward the Hong Kong government with Visa Waiver access?"
Recent Blog Posts