Department of Homeland Security: More changes coming for visa-free travelers to U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security was expected to announce today strict new regulations for nationals of countries that do not need visas to enter the United State.

Starting next January, nations of so-called visa waiver countries must register with the U.S. government 72 hours prior to traveling in order to be let in the country. Starting in August, they’ll be able to do this on airline Web sites, at travel agencies or at a special page on the DHS’ own Web site.

This will affect most western European countries as well as citizens from Brunei, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.

There are 27 countries on the U.S. visa waiver list. Another eight — including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland — are expected to obtain visa waiver status this year.

The registration will involve supplying the U.S. government with pretty much the same information that these citizens currently fill out on the I-94 immigration form before landing.

Why this new change? DHS figures, rightly in my view, that terrorists do not necessarily all come from countries not on the visa waiver list. Richard Reid was a British citizen, after all. Zacarias Moussaoui held a French passport. Neither needed a visa to enter the U.S. (O.K., I know it was Reid’s intention to never enter the U.S., but you see what I mean).

My one question about all this is: Brunei? How did Brunei get visa waiver status? Just wondering. Seems pretty random, given the countries that are on the list and those who can’t get near it.