US & Canada

US to tighten visa waiver programme after Paris attacks

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Sen Dianne Feinstein, joined by Sen Ben Cardin, points to the embedded chip in her passport that contains digital information at a news conference in Washington on 19 November Image copyright AP
Image caption There have been concerns Islamic militants could get into the US by exploiting the current visa waiver programme

The US says it will tighten travel restrictions on foreigners who visit the country without needing full visas.

About 20 million people from 38 countries enter America each year under the visa waiver programme.

It has come under increased scrutiny since last month's attacks in Paris, with lawmakers expressing concern that militants could get into the US.

Under changes that are be submitted to Congress, all countries in the scheme would be asked to issue "e-passports".

Their registrations would come under greater scrutiny from US agencies, and travellers would also be screened to see if they had travelled to militant-held areas.

The Department of Homeland Security will also ask Congress for additional powers, including increase fines for airlines that fail to verify passport data.

The changes will "enhance our ability to thwart terrorist attempts to travel on lost or stolen passports", White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Paris, where President Barack Obama is attending UN talks on climate change.

The programme currently allows people from designated countries to visit the US for 90-day stays without getting a visa.

Several of the suspected perpetrators of the Paris terror attacks were from Belgium and France, which are countries on the list.

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