Press Releases

House Passes Legislation to Strengthen the Nation's Visa Waiver Program

Washington, December 8, 2015
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03) issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03) issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act.

“Today’s critical legislation will ensure that our country is identifying and stopping foreign fighters with Western passports from entering the United States. The recent terrorist attacks, and the fact that nearly 5,000 individuals from countries included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program have traveled to Syria and Iraq pledging allegiance to ISIS, have brought our current Visa Waiver Program under scrutiny. As the program stands now, nationals from the 38 countries included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program do not have to go through the U.S. consulate to obtain a visa; rather, these individuals are only required to provide background information, which does not include finger prints, to be screened by U.S. security databases. Thus, these individuals receive an expedited approval or denial. It will improve American security by making sure that all 38 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program have an e-passport, which would contain fraud-resistant certifications of an individual’s biographic and biometric information. In order to prevent acts of terrorism from occurring on U.S. soil, this legislation would prevent aliens who are nationals of, or those who have traveled in the last five years to, a country designated by the Secretary of State as a state sponsor of terror, from access to visa-free travel to the U.S. through the Visa Waiver Program. These individuals would be required to go through the more stringent and prolonged process of obtaining a visa for entry. Under current Visa Waiver Program rules, individuals can enter the United States for up to 90 days with very little scrutiny – that is no longer acceptable. Today’s bipartisan legislation is just the next step in the House taking leadership in keeping Americans secure here at home.”

Specifically, H.R. 158 would:

·         Identify and stop foreign fighters with Western passports from entering the United States.

·         Allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend participation of countries in the Visa Waiver Program if they do not share terrorism and foreign traveler data with the United States.

·         Clarify the Electronic System for Travel Authorization is a counterterrorism tool and requires the Department of Homeland Security to consider including additional information pertaining to terrorism threats to better screen foreign travelers.

·         Require an annual threat assessment conducted by the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security to assess information sharing between the Visa Waiver Program countries and the United States.

·         Require an annual intelligence assessment conducted by the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security to assess airport, passport, and travel document standards.

·         Direct the Department of Homeland Security to report, within 30 days, on what additional data might be necessary to improve Electronic System for Travel Authorization as a counterterrorism tool to screen travelers.