This bill would block visa-free entry to the U.S. for passport-holders of the Visa Waiver Program’s 38 participating countries if they hold dual citizenship with or have traveled, since 3/2011, to Iraq, Syria, or other countries determined by the secretary of state to be ‘safe haven[s]’ for terrorists, home to significant terrorist activity, as well as countries that if visited could increase a person’s likelihood of becoming a ‘credible threat’ to the U.S. The unnamed countries would presumably include Iran and Sudan. Inter alia, the bill would also require the 38 Visa Waiver Program countries to perform checks against Interpol databases on passport-holders hoping to travel to the U.S. and to start issuing ‘e-passports,’ which would allow the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to check biometric and biographic information. The DHS would be authorized to disqualify any member-state that does not adequately comply with the program’s new components.
In terms of oversight, the head of DHS would be required to submit an annual report on the number of times that the administration exercised a national security waiver over the abovementioned restrictions. DHS would also have to report to Congress annually on the number of travelers denied entry on security grounds in the previous year and report periodically on foreign governments’ compliance with the information-sharing requirements described above.
The bill came under criticism from the Arab-American Civil Rights League, American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee on the grounds that it could affect journalists and aid workers, discriminate against Arab-Americans (if the European members of the Visa Waiver Program pass reciprocal measures), and effectively discourage travel to and business with Iran, thereby jeopardizing the 7/14 nuclear deal.
After passing in the House on 12/8/15, the text of this bill was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (*H.R. 2029 of 4/24/15), which passed into law on 12/18/15.
93 cosponsors (64R, 29D).
See also: similar bill S. 2362 of 12/7/15.
Last major action: 12/8/15 passed in House by yea/nay vote, 407–19.