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House Passes Bill Restricting Benefits under the Visa Waiver Program

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On December 8, 2015, the House of Representatives passed the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 by an overwhelming majority of 407 to 19 votes.  The bill eliminates rights under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for all citizens of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan.  It also excludes all individuals from any country who have traveled since March 1, 2011 to certain countries, such as Syria and Iraq.

Many have voiced their concern and disapproval of this measure, claiming that it blatantly discriminates individuals based on nationality and national origin, and that it may potentially have unintended consequences.  But after the Paris shootings, a reform restricting the VWP has been broadly supported as lawmakers have criticized the program’s lax entry requirements.

The VWP allows citizens from certain designated countries to enter the US without obtaining a consular visa in advance.  Presently, 38 countries are part of this program, with over 20 million visitors benefiting from it every year.

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