In an executive order signed on January 27, US president Donald Trump instructed the State Department to immediately suspend the US’s Visa Interview Waiver Program.
It’s an interesting action by a president who has made trade a central tenet of his policy platform, since it could, in the short term, inconvenience many frequent visitors to the US (and even dissuade them from visiting) by forcing them to have a face-to-face interview with a US consular officer every time their visa expires rather than simply dropping off their passport at a consulate, reports Quartz.
Suspending the program could wreak havoc on US consular operations around the world that handle frequent visits from travellers seeking short term visas. The Visa Interview Waiver Program allows travelers to renew travel authorizations without an in-person interview.
The action is not expected to have any effect on the widely popular Visa Waiver Program, familiar to many by its front-line system, ESTA. That program allows nationals of 38 countries—including much of Europe—to enter the US without securing a visa at a consulate first.
A State department spokesman could not immediately confirm the precise effects of suspending this program, but said that it would announce any changes affecting travelers to the US as soon as possible.
On top of the increased visa processing, much of the senior leadership at the State Department just resigned en masse according to the Washington Post, adding a new management challenge on top of the looming operational challenge.