Originally published on Travel Market Report.
The House is getting set to unveil a new bill that, if passed, would secure changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and make it more difficult for citizens of other VWP countries to enter the United States.
Under the bill, any person who has traveled to Syria or Iraq in the past five years will not be eligible for the VWP, and would be forced to get a traditional tourist visa before coming into the country. In addition, countries participating in the VWP would be required to get a traveler’s fingerprints and photo before travel, to issue smart e-passports to travelers, and to screen travelers’names against criminal databases.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of the senators that introudced the bill, said that the attacks in Paris prove that the VWP makes it easier for terrorists to get through a gap in security.
“As growing numbers of foreign nationals travel to the Middle East to train and fight, and with 45 million lost and stolen passports on the black market, we must do all we can to secure the program,” she said in a statement.
The bill will be voted on as soon as next week, and is expected to pass, says House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The news comes in the same week that the White House announced some changes to the program including allowing Homeland Security to further screen passengers based on any known travel to a country that it considers a “terrorist safe haven.” The House bill would push those changes farther.
Though many recognize the need for a change to the VWP after the attacks in Paris (as some of the Paris attackers were from countries who participate in the VWP), the U.S. Travel Association issued a statement saying it supports the bill but not “steps that ultimately dismantle the program and set back America’s economy and our efforts to protect the homeland.”
“The travel community is all in favor of a good-faith congressional debate about enhancements to the VWP, but if the [bill] imposes redundant, costly, inefficient protocols, it could ultimately do more harm than good,” USTA said in a statement.