Congress may move quickly to overhaul a program that allows travel from 38 countries to the U.S. with no visa, something that has come under criticism following the Paris terror attacks.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Monday that he was looking at action before the end of the year. Without legislation "I think the country will be less safe," the California Republican said. At the same time, the White House announced a series of changes aimed at improving the program, including more terrorism information sharing with other countries.
The so-called visa waiver program lets people from 38 countries visit the U.S. for 90-day stays without obtaining a visa. It has come under scrutiny following the Paris terror attacks since several of the suspected perpetrators were from Belgium and France, which are countries on the list.
McCarthy outlined five changes House Republicans would like to see to the program. They include requiring all countries to issue electronic passports; ensuring that all passengers are screened against a database of lost and stolen passports; and kicking countries out of the visa waiver program if they aren't abiding by requirements.
Changing the visa waiver program appears to have bipartisan support in the House and the Senate and general agreement from the White House. Many lawmakers note that the large scope of the program - it admits some 20 million visitors to the U.S. each year - makes it a potential security concern.
How much time and money would it take to implement these changes? What would be the economic costs of limiting travellers from Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the other U.S. ally countries currently eligible?
With files from the Associated Press.
Alex Wayne, White House Editor, Bloomberg News
Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research, Economic Policy Institute - a nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions