Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14) voted for and the House passed the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (H.R. 158), legislation to tighten security of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). VWP allows nationals of 38 participating countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.
“Militant Islamic terrorism is threatening the homeland in new ways, and the Visa Waiver Program is now a gaping hole in our national security that must be addressed,” said Rep. Graves. “The way the program currently works, a radicalized citizen of a participating country – who is not otherwise detected – could travel to Iraq or Syria to join the Islamic State, return to their home country, and then travel to the United States without applying for a visa and undergoing the additional screening process a visa application entails. The legislation the House passed today, with overwhelming bipartisan support, will tighten security of the Visa Waiver Program so terrorists cannot use our nation’s generosity to sneak in and attack our communities. I will continue to do everything in my power to put in place safeguards that protect the homeland from terrorist attacks.”
Specifically, H.R. 158 denies VWP status to individuals who have connections to terrorist hotbeds like Syria and Iraq, forces the Secretary of Homeland Security to terminate the VWP status of any participating country that does not uphold their obligation to share counterterrorism intelligence and requires participating countries to check travelers against INTERPOL databases. H.R. 158 also requires VWP countries to use fraud-resistant e-passports, U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct more frequent threat assessments of VWP countries and the Department of Homeland Security to take additional steps to identify fraud.
Previously, Rep. Graves voted for and the House passed the American SAFE Act (H.R. 4038), legislation requiring the FBI director certify the background investigation of every refugee from Syria and Iraq and requiring that the secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI director, and the director of National Intelligence all certify to Congress that each refugee is not a security threat. These security features would effectively pause the president’s plan to resettle thousands of Syrian refugees in the United States.