House votes to add security restrictions to Visa Waiver Program

HIGHLIGHTS

In an overwhelming majority, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill tightening security restrictions of the Visa Waiver Program. Currently, nationals from 38 countries may travel to the United States for 90 days without obtaining a visa, however, the bill aims to add restrictions to countries deemed “high risk.”

Key bill highlights  

  • Travelers from the 38 participating countries who’ve visited Iraq, Sudan, Iran and Syria in the past five years – and individuals with dual citizenship in any of those countries – must obtain a visa before traveling to the United States.
  • Participating countries must readily share information with U.S. authorities regarding suspected terrorists. The bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to cease countries’ eligibility if data isn’t transmitted accurately.
  • In an effort to help officials confirm travelers’ identities, participating countries must adopt passports equipped with electronic chips by April 1. Some countries are still in the process of updating passports with five- and 10-year validity periods.

A Senate vote on the bill hasn’t been scheduled yet. The measure could be included in a trillion-dollar spending bill that must be passed by Congress in the next few days to avoid a government shutdown.