Washington, D.C. – Today, with the support of Congressman David Rouzer, the House of Representatives passed the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (H.R. 158) to close security gaps and strengthen the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by prohibiting individuals who have been to countries of concern as well as countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism, such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran, from entering the United States unless they are interviewed by U.S. officials and have obtained a visa.

“At a time when we are encountering increased threats to our homeland, we must ensure that those who are from any one of the thirty-eight countries participating in our Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and who have recently traveled to countries with terrorist hotspots undergo stringent screenings before obtaining a visa,” said Rep. David Rouzer.  “H.R. 158 takes reasonable and commonsense steps to ensure that the Visa Waiver Program is not used as a loophole for terrorists to exploit and enter our country.”

Our current visa system, designed years ago to encourage tourism and facilitate commerce with other countries, allows individuals from 38 designated countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days.  Instead of going to a U.S. consulate to obtain a visa, citizens from countries who participate in the Visa Waiver Program must only provide detailed background information through an online form that is screened against U.S. security systems and have a passport from their home country.

H.R. 158 prevents individuals who have connections to countries with significant terrorist activity, such as Iraq and Syria, from entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).  The bill also demands other countries share their intelligence and law enforcement information to help the U.S. better identify potential terrorist and foreign fighters from VWP countries.

H.R. 158 passed the House by a vote of 407-19.