By Ray O’Hanlon
The old tickets, money, passport check list as you head out the door for the airport is no longer just the ticket.
These days you more often than not don’t need a literal ticket.
And you can forgo cash for plastic.
But you still need a passport.
But the old sort increasingly won’t do.
And this will soon be even more the case for Irish travelers to the United States.
Ireland is one of the 38 nations included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.
This means that Irish passport holders can travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa obtained at an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Countries qualify for the waiver program if they have a low rate of citizens who fail to make the return journey.
Qualifying nations must also have an approved standard of passport issuance and control.
But the bar is about to be raised with regard to passports.
The Department of Homeland Security is moving to boost the security of the waiver program amid fears about potential terrorist attacks, The Hill newspaper reported.
The agency said it will begin requiring passengers from the 38 program countries to use an e-passport during their trips.
Such e-passports contain an electronic chip and a biometric identifier that make it harder to "skim" travelers' data.
Other new rules for visa waiver program participants include requiring passengers to be checked against a lost-and-stolen-passport list, which is maintained by international police force Interpol, and expanding the use of federal air marshals on flights from visa waiver countries, the report stated.
Homeland Security chief, Jeh Johnson, said the new requirements would boost the security of the visa waiver program, which, he said, is a valuable tourism recruitment tool.
"As I have said a number of times now, the current global threat environment requires that we know more about those who travel to the United States. This includes those from countries for which we do not require a visa," Johnson said in a statement.
"Our visa waiver program is a valuable program for lawful trade and travel with this nation’s most trusted partners. There is more we can do to enhance the security of this valuable program."
The visa waiver program has come under scrutiny as fears about international terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have risen. Some lawmakers have said ISIS could try to exploit a weakness in the visa waiver program if they have access to travel documents from friendly nations, The Hill report added.
Many European countries — including Britain, Belgium, Germany and France — that have a large number of citizens who have traveled to Iraq and Syria are part of the (visa waiver) program, the New York Times reported.
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan recently stated that Ireland needed to remain vigilant against ISIS and said that files were being compiled on suspected jihadists living in the republic.