New security measures, aimed at combatting terrorism, receive broad bipartisan support
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, a member of the House committees on homeland security and foreign affairs, announced approval of H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.
"National security is dynamic and influenced by lessons learned through experience and intelligence," Higgins said. "This bill makes a number of changes that close potential gaps given the security concerns of today and utilize the latest technology to protect against threats."
The visa waiver program currently allows citizens from 38 countries, mostly in Europe, to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa, instead completing an online security screening. Under this new bill:
•Effective April 1, 2016, travelers from visa waiver program countries are required to have an electronic passport (e-passport), making it more difficult to falsify one's identity;
•Those who have traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan and other areas of concern are ineligible for travel to the U.S. under the program;
•Countries that do not share information on citizens traveling to the U.S. who represent a threat will be removed from the program;
•Countries that do not screen all travelers to the U.S. for unlawful activity against databases maintained by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) will be removed;
•Visa waiver program countries must report stolen passports to the U.S. within 24 hours; and
•A report that assesses the threat to U.S. national security of each country in the visa waiver program is required.