GOODLATTE APPLAUDS PASSAGE OF BILL TO STRENGTHEN VISA WAIVER PROGRAM
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives today approved by a vote of 407-19 the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R. 158) to strengthen the security of the visa waiver program in order to enhance national security and Americans’ safety. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) managed the debate time for this bill and issued the following statement on the passage of this important legislation.
Goodlatte: “We’ve known since 9/11 that vulnerabilities exist in our immigration system. We should not be surprised that terrorists have and will continue to exploit our immigration laws. It is a matter of national security that we improve our immigration system.
“Legitimate concerns have been raised that ISIS terrorists and sympathizers could enter the United States though the Visa Waiver Program. It’s estimated that 5,000 Europeans – many of whom live in countries that participate in this fast-track travel program – have journeyed to Syria and Iraq to fight with terrorist groups like ISIS. Today, the House approved commonsense, bipartisan legislation that takes reasonable steps to close gaping security holes in the Visa Waiver Program and enhance Americans’ safety.
“The Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 is a good first step but many other vulnerabilities continue to exist in our immigration system. The House must take up several bills already approved by the House Judiciary Committee that strengthen the asylum process, strengthen visa processing security, and prevent terrorists from receiving any immigration benefit. Congress has no more important duty than to protect our country and the American people from those who wish us harm.”
Key Components of H.R. 158:
- The Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 takes reasonable, commonsense steps to protect national security. It requires dual nationals and individuals who have traveled since March 1, 2011 to certain countries of concern and State Sponsors of Terrorism – including Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan – to obtain a visa before coming to the United States. This simply means that these folks will have to apply for a visa just like citizens of most nations already have to do in order to come to the United States.
- Additionally, the bill allows the Secretary of State to designate additional countries of concern so that travelers to these countries and those who hold dual citizenship in these countries also have to obtain visas before coming to the United States. For example, the Secretary could use this authority if he/she determines that the country has a significant presence of a foreign terrorist organization or that the country is a safe haven for terrorists.
- The bill contains a number of other security enhancements to the VWP to prevent the program from being used as a fast-track for terrorists to enter the United States.
Learn more about legislation approved by the House Judiciary Committee to strengthen our immigration system and national security here.