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US House votes to tighten controls on visa-free travellers

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (centre) and members of the House GOP leadership, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (left) and Rep Will Hurd (right), hold a news briefing following the weekly Republican Conference meeting at the US Capitol on Dec 8, 2015 in Washington, DC.

[WASHINGTON] American lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to impose restrictions making it more difficult for visitors to Iraq, Syria and countries listed as supporting terrorism to travel visa-free to the United States.

The House of Representatives voted 407 to 19 in support of the Visa Waiver Programme Improvement Act of 2015, a bill backed by the White House in the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Paris that were conducted by extremists who could have travelled to America without a visa.

It would bar people who travelled after March 1, 2011 to Iraq and Syria, as well as Iran and Sudan, from participating in the visa-free programme, require the use of electronic passports for all participating countries, and call for participating countries to share more intelligence data on suspected terrorists and criminals.