US govt to tighten visa-free travel rules

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The US administration backs a bill that would make it harder for visitors to Iraq, Syria and countries listed as supporting terrorism to travel visa-free to the United States, the State Department said Wednesday.

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The House of Representatives voted 407 to 19 on Tuesday in support of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015, a measure the White House supports on the heels of deadly attacks in Paris that were conducted by extremists who could have traveled to the United States without a visa.

The bill, which still requires Senate and White House review, would bar people who traveled after March 1, 2011 to Iraq and Syria, as well as Iran and Sudan, from participating in the visa-free program.

It also would require the use of electronic passports for all participating countries and call for those countries to share more intelligence data on terror and criminal suspects.

“We’re supportive of the bipartisan legislation that’s been proposed in the House of Representatives. And we hope the Congress moves swiftly to pass that legislation,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

VWP is available to citizens of 38 countries, largely US allies and relatively stable developed democracies.

Many are in Europe, including Belgium and France, the home countries of several of the Paris attackers.

Created in 1986 to help facilitate travel to the US, the program allows applicants to fill out a detailed form online and pay a small fee, rather than apply at US consulates.

AFP

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