House passes legislation on visa waiver overhaul

New legislation would bar those from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan from traveling to the United States without a visa.

Ben Ariel ,

Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation on Tuesday that would overhaul the federal visa waiver program and bar those from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan, or those who have visited those countries in the last five years, from traveling to the United States without a visa, CNN reports.

407 lawmakers voted in favor of the proposal, and only 19 opposed it.

Action on the proposal comes in response to the recent attacks in Paris by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists, and the shooting in California by a couple that expressed support for the terror group on social media.

“This will help neutralize the threat from foreign terrorists entering our country,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday, according to CNN.

The GOP proposal, which top House Democrats have endorsed, calls for greater sharing of information among the 38 countries that participate in the program with the United States.

Currently those eligible can travel for limited time periods without having to apply for a visa. The bill would authorize the Department of Homeland Security to terminate any country’s participation in the program if it does not adequately transmit data, noted CNN. It also looks to beef up efforts to detect fraud from those traveling with electronic passports.

President Barack Obama called on Congress to address the visa waiver program during his address to the nation on Sunday about his administration’s efforts to combat the threat from ISIS.

Ryan criticized the speech, saying, according to CNN, “We heard the President defend staying the course. But why would we stay the course when the enemy is evolving?”

He repeated his call for the President to offer a “real, comprehensive strategy to defeat — defeat, not contain, ISIS.”