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House passes bill to strengthen visa waiver program after Paris attacks

The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to bolster the U.S. visa waiver program after officials noticed it contained loopholes after the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks.

Lawmakers approved the bill 407-19, which is intended to strengthen the program that allows citizens of 38 partner countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa for stays of 90 days or less.

Some of the countries that are eligible to participate in the program include France, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Lawmakers realized there are vulnerabilities within the program after authorities learned that most of the attackers in Paris were either French or Belgian citizens.

The bill would deny visa waiver status to citizens of partner countries who have traveled to terrorist hotspots like Iraq and Syria in the last five years. If any of the 38 countries fail to share counterterrorism information with the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security would be required to terminate that country from the program.

All 38 countries would be required to issue their citizens new fraud-resistant "e-passports" that contain information like fingerprints. The bill would also force all partner countries to submit lost or stolen passport information to INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization.

The bill would also require all 38 countries to check travelers against INTERPOL databases to determine whether they have been wanted by law enforcement for terrorist or criminal activity.

The White House also announced changes last week that the administration is making to the visa waiver program.

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