'Visa waiver' travelers would be fingerprinted under Senate bill

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Travelers to the United States from "visa waiver" nations would have to provide fingerprints and photos under a U.S. Senate bill to intensify scrutiny of foreigners, one of several border-tightening measures offered since the Paris attacks.

SEE ALSO: Report says Islamic State supporters now includes 300 Americans

The measure is the latest to propose tightening U.S. border control since the Nov. 13 shootings and bombings in France by Islamic State militants that left 130 people dead, triggering a wave of fear across the United States.

The bill was introduced on Tuesday by a bipartisan group of senators led by Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican Jeff Flake. It would also require individuals who had visited Syria or Iraq in the last five years to get a traditional U.S. tourist visa before heading for the United States, rather than taking advantage of the "visa waiver" program.

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'Visa waiver' travelers would be fingerprinted under Senate bill
A Texas Parks and Wildlife Warden stands next to a 30 caliber rifle as he patrols the Rio Grande on the U.S.-Mexico border , Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Mission, Texas. Texas is spending $1.3 million a week for a bigger DPS presence along the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents search for undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agents patrol along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, near Rio Grande City, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Department of Safety Troopers patrol on the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border, Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Mission, Texas. Texas is spending $1.3 million a week for a bigger DPS presence along the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: A U.S. Border Patrol agent searches for undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: Paramedics and U.S. Border Patrol agents assist an undocumented immigrant after he collapsed from heat exhaustion after crossing from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
In this Sept. 5, 2014 photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agent looks for signs along a trail with assistance from agents in a helicopter near the Texas-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. Since illegal immigration spiked in the Rio Grande Valley this summer, the Border Patrol has dispatched more agents, the Texas Department of Public Safety has sent more troopers and Texas Gov. Rick Perry deployed as many as 1,000 guardsmen to the area. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent searches for undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 near McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Texas Department of Safety Troopers patrol on the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border, Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Mission, Texas. Texas is spending $1.3 million a week for a bigger DPS presence along the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: Paramedics and U.S. Border Patrol agents assist an undocumented immigrant after he collapsed from heat exhaustion after crossing from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: Paramedics and U.S. Border Patrol agents assist an undocumented immigrant after he collapsed from heat exhaustion after crossing from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents wait for paramedics to take an undocumented immigrant to the hospital after he collapsed from heat exhaustion after crossing from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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Under that program, travelers from 38 countries, including much of Western Europe, can embark for the United States without first getting a visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. About 20 million visitors a year enter the United States under the program, which allows them to stay 90 days.

U.S. officials privately admit they are more worried about possible Islamic State or other Europe-based militants using the visa waiver program to enter the United States than they are by the possibility that would-be attackers might hide among droves of U.S.-bound refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq.

The Feinstein-Flake bill would also increase the fee charged by the United States to visa waiver travelers, now $14. Travelers who get visas from U.S. embassies or consulates now must pay a fee of $160. Feinstein and Flake did not say how high they wanted to raise the fee for visa waiver travelers.

SEE ALSO: Man who threatened to 'execute' white students at Chicago university is arrested

The bill was greeted with skepticism by a travel industry representative. Jonathan Grella, executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, said a pre-travel fingerprinting requirement could deter travelers from the United States.

"The U.S. travel community strongly supports sensible security enhancements to the visa waiver program. What we cannot support are steps that ultimately dismantle the program and set back America's economy and our efforts to protect the homeland," the trade organization said in a statement.

Obama administration officials said they have already taken steps to tighten scrutiny of visa waiver travelers.

In August, the administration said it would require the use of an INTERPOL database containing reports of lost and stolen passports to screen passengers, and the reporting of suspected "foreign fighters" to international security agencies such as INTERPOL, a U.S. official said.

However, the administration had not proposed either requiring visa waiver passengers to submit fingerprints in advance of travel or increasing fees. A congressional official said the fingerprinting requirement in the bill would most directly affect first-time travelers to the United States.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Cynthia Osterman)


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