Barr Votes to Reform Visa Waiver Program

Changes are needed to ensure foreign fighters do not exploit security gaps.

December 8, 2015

Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) today voted for H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.  The bipartisan legislation makes reforms to the Visa Waiver Program in light of recent terrorist attacks and concerns that security gaps in the program could make it easier for foreign fighters and terrorists to enter the United States. 

“Ensuring the national security of the United States is my top priority,” said Congressman Barr.  “In light of recent terrorist attacks, it is essential that we review programs and processes that may leave our country vulnerable.  This legislation will help close security gaps in the Visa Waiver Program so that we can keep terrorists out of the country, and keep Americans safe.”

Created in 1986, the Visa Waiver Program allows more than 20 million people annually from 38 participating countries to more easily travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days.

It is estimated that approximately 5,000 Europeans have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, many of whom are from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program.  Many of these countries fail to provide the U.S. intelligence community with critical information needed to ensure those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program are not a threat to the United States.

In order to address these vulnerabilities, the H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015:

  • Gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to suspend a country’s participation in the program if they fail to share counterterrorism information with the U.S.;
  • denies Visa Waiver Program status to those citizens from participating countries that have traveled to certain terrorist hotspots since 2011;
  • requires all Visa Waiver Program countries use fraud resistant “e-passports”;
  • allows for the suspension of high-risk countries.