U.S. House Republican leaders introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would strengthen requirements and qualifications for a program allowing citizens of dozens of countries to travel to the United States without visas.
The legislation, authored by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), is aimed at tightening border security amid fears that the U.S. could fall victim to terrorism after last month's deadly shootings in Paris. Nationals of France and Belgium, which are among the 38 visa waiver countries, were found involved in the Paris attacks.
Other members of the visa-free program include Britain, Germany, South Korea and Japan.
Earlier this week, the White House also announced a set of measures to strengthen regulations of the visa-free program, including stricter checks on whether visitors have records of any past travel to countries constituting a terrorist safe haven.
"For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.
That was certainly the case on 9/11, and, unfortunately, it holds true today," Miller said in a statement. "It is imperative that we address every vulnerability that might allow terrorists to carry out another attack on U.S. soil -- including vulnerabilities with our Visa Waiver Program."
The legislation calls for requiring visa waiver countries to continually share terrorism and foreign traveler data with the U.S., utilize Interpol's criminal and law enforcement databases, report lost and stolen passports within 24 hours and screen all passengers against all Interpol databases and notices.
The bill also calls for requiring visa waiver travelers to use electronic passports with biometric enabled chips by April 1.
Failure to meet these requirements would result in the loss of the visa-free status, according to the bill.
The legislation is expected to pass the House as Democrats are also in support of it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she supports the legislation. (Yonhap)