CONGRESSMAN BISHOP STRENGTHENS BORDER SECURITY, VISA PROCESS
WASHINGTON D.C.—Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) strengthened border security and addressed vulnerabilities in the current Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by co-sponsoring and voting to pass bipartisan H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015. This bipartisan legislation prohibits individuals who have been to Syria and Iraq from entering the United States unless they are interviewed by U.S. officials and get a regular visa, even if they are from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program. H.R. 158 also updates the requirements for countries to participate in the program, including requiring fraud resistant electronic passports containing certain biographic and biometric information.
“In today’s dangerous world, vigilance is essential to our national security,” said Congressman Bishop. “H.R. 158 bolsters the screening process for foreign nationals and addresses security vulnerabilities found within the Visa Waiver Program, making our nation more safe and secure.”
The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals from 38 countries, 30 of which are in Europe, to enter the United States as visitors for business or pleasure for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Nationals from participating Visa Waiver Program countries are required to complete a U.S. government online security screening form, referred to as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), prior to departure for the United States and at the port of entry by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official.
Generally, travelers from non-VWP countries who want to enter the United States as visitors must obtain a visa from the State Department, which involves undergoing more extensive security screening, including biometric (i.e. fingerprint) security screening, and an in-person interview with a Department of State Consular Officer at a consular post abroad prior to travel.
H.R. 158 bill makes nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to Iraq, Syria, designated state sponsors of terrorism (Iran and Sudan), and other “countries or areas of concern” since March 1, 2011, as well as anyone who is a dual national of one of those countries and a VWP country, ineligible to travel to the U.S. under the VWP. Instead, they are required to obtain a visa, as visitors from non-VWP countries have to do. They now also have to have an in-person interview with a U.S. Department of State Consular official and undergo more extensive security screening, including biometric (i.e. fingerprint) security screening.
H.R. 158 was approved by the House of Representatives in a vote of 407 to 19. For more information regarding the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015, please click here.