WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) helped pass bipartisan legislation to close gaps in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that could be exploited by terrorists to gain entry into the United States. Currently, travelers from countries that participate in the VWP can visit the U.S. for 90 days or less without any screening. This bill will require travelers who have recently visited nations considered ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ and other ‘areas of concern’ to apply for a regular visitor visa, like travelers from many other nations. The bill passed by a broad bipartisan vote of 407-19 with support from Democratic Leadership, President Obama, and the entirety of the San Diego Congressional delegation.
“In the face of increasingly dynamic and dangerous threats posed by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups, Congress must give our intelligence agencies the tools to keep our communities safe. Closing gaps in our Visa Waiver program is a smart and targeted approach to preventing terrorists from entering the United States without impeding regular travel,” Peters said. “It does not deny travelers from these nations the ability to come here, but it does ask them to apply and interview for a visa, like travelers from so many other nations currently do.”
Key Provisions of the Visa Waiver Improvement Act of 2015
- Requires non-citizens who visited Iraq, Syria, Sudan, or Iran since 2011 to apply for a visitor visa, which includes an application, in-person interview at a U.S. Embassy or consulate, and fingerprint scans.
- Requires VWP participants to continually share terrorism and foreign traveler date and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend a country’s participation if they fail to meet this requirement.
- Requires VWP participants to screen all passengers against INTERPOL’s criminal and law enforcement data and report lost and stolen passports within 24 hours, and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend a country’s participation if they fail to meet this requirement.
- Requires VWP participants to use Electronic Passports with biometric enabled chips by April 1, 2016.
- Allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend a country’s VWP participation if it is deemed “high risk.”