(Washington, DC) - H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 was passed by the House of Representatives by a strong bipartisan vote of 407 - 19. Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15) supported the bill.

“Since its original enactment in 1986, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has served as an important means to encourage bilateral economic and cultural relationships between the United States and participating VWP partner countries,” said Representative Dent. 

“However, the global threat environment has changed since the VWP was initially established, and the reforms that were advanced through today’s legislative action will allow the VWP to keep pace with today’s realities while still maintaining the original spirt of the program to allow for the seamless temporary travel of tourists and businessmen and women from some of our most trusted ally nations on a reciprocal basis.”

Even the most effective security protocols and information are irrelevant if there is not a shared standard in practice. The enhancements required by this bill – such as requiring more secure electronic passports and improving traveler screening processes – will help to maintain safe travel and allow the VWP to continue to serve its intended purpose. 

“This bipartisan legislation offers a workable solution to provide greater security for America as well as all participating VWP nations,” Dent stated.

Key security enhancement provisions in the legislation include: 

* Requiring all VWP countries to issue fraud-resistant “e-passports” that contain biometric information and requiring countries to report lost or stolen passports within 24 hours of becoming aware of such theft or loss;

*Demanding strong intelligence and law enforcement information sharing by allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend the participation of countries in the VWP if they do not share terrorism and foreign traveler data; 

*Denying VWP status to individuals who could have connections to terrorist hotspots or state sponsors of terrorism;

*Requiring annual assessments of countries that pose a high risk to U.S. national security and allowing for the suspension of VWP designation for any such countries;

*Taking steps to ensure VWP travelers do not falsify their background information.

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CONTACT:  Shawn Millan (610) 770-3490