H.R. 1543: Visa Waiver Modernization Act of 2007

Information from the Office of U.S. Representatives Rahm Emanuel:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Emanuel, Shimkus, Wexler, Berkley Announce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Visa Waiver Program

Legislation Enhances Security Standards, Improves Diplomacy, Boosts Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Representatives Rahm Emanuel (IL-5), John Shimkus (IL-19), Robert Wexler (FL-19), and Shelley Berkley (NV-1) introduced legislation in the United States House of Representatives to expand the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Modernization Act of 2007 increases the number of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program and enhances the security standards for all participating countries.

“Expanding this program is a common sense way to provide our closest international partners, like Poland, the opportunity to travel to the United States,” said Emanuel. “This bipartisan bill will simultaneously strengthen security, manage risk, promote international business and improve our image across the globe. Improving the Visa Waiver Program is in our economic, political and national security interest and demonstrates our continued commitment to our allies. The United States should not walk away from our history of welcoming our friends.”

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP), established in 1986 as a pilot program to promote better relations with U.S. allies, currently includes twenty-seven countries. The VWP requires any country participating in the program to meet a series of criteria concerning immigration patterns, security and law enforcement, reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S. citizens, and biometric passports that are machine-readable. Last year, President Bush called on Congress to expand the program to deserving nations making it easier for citizens of our allies to come to the United States and at the same time share information to thwart terrorist plots. This bill accomplishes those goals.

“As Co-Chairman of the House Baltic Caucus, I have worked hard to maintain the strong relationship between the United States and the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Since their accession into NATO and their extraordinary achievements in passport and visa security, their inability to become a member of the Visa Waiver Program has become an increasing problem in relations between our countries,” said Shimkus. “With this important legislation, our allies will be recognized for their ongoing commitment to the War on Terror and the strong friendship we have, instead of antiquated requirements that do not reflect the security initiatives that these countries have in place.”

Specifically, the Visa Waiver Modernization Act of 2007 will:

  • Require existing and new program countries to implement enhanced travel security requirements.
  • Establish common standards and policies to limit illegal entry and impede travel by terrorists and transnational criminals.
  • Improve and strengthen important bilateral relationships with key NATO Allies and contributors to operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror.
  • As a condition for the program, require counterterrorism cooperation and information sharing.
  • Require the US officials to monitor when Visa Waiver Program participants exit the country.
  • Improve procedures for measuring any potential overstays, to ensure compliance with the program.

On March 13, 2007, the United States Senate passed S.4, Improving America's Security Act of 2007, which included provisions similar to the language in this bill.

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