House passes bill limiting travel to the U.S. with no visa

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks with a reporter following a closed-door GOP caucus meeting at the Republican National Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. Invoking the Paris terror attacks, House lawmakers pushed toward a vote Tuesday on legislation tightening controls on travel to the U.S. and requiring visas for anyone who's been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years. "You have more than 5,000 individuals that have Western passports in this program that have gone to Iraq or Syria in the last five years," said McCarthy. "Those are gaps that we need to fix." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has approved legislation tightening controls on travel to the U.S. and requiring visas for anyone who’s been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years.

The bill was approved 407-19. It is backed by the White House and expected to be overwhelmingly approved, takes aim at the “visa waiver” program, which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without first obtaining a visa. Belgium and France, home to most of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, are among the participating countries.

“You have more than 5,000 individuals that have Western passports in this program that have gone to Iraq or Syria in the last five years,” said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “Those are gaps that we need to fix.”

The legislation would institute a series of changes, including the new visa requirement for citizens of Iraq, Syria and other countries that are home to extremist groups or anyone who’s traveled to those countries in the previous five years. Countries in the visa waiver program would also be required to share information on extremists with the U.S. and face expulsion from the program if they don’t. The legislation is supported by the White House and may end up attached to a sweeping year-end spending bill now being finalized on Capitol Hill.

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