The Visa Waiver Program has been in place for over 25 years and has allowed individuals from 38 countries to travel to the United States without a visa. These 38 countries have reciprocated this visa free travel for U.S. citizens and nationals. As of earlier this year, that has changed.
With the passage of the new bill, individuals who are dual citizens of four countries (Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria) and wish to come to the United States can no longer do so without a visa. In addition to this restriction, even if you are not a citizen but have visited these four countries since 2011, you will also be required to obtain a visa.
To make matters more complicated, Iran, Sudan and Syria consider individuals to be nationals if their fathers are citizens of that country. Therefore an individual could have never even visited the country yet would still be determined to be a national of that country.
There have been some exceptions made to this law by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State when the law was implanted on January 21. If an individual traveled to one of those countries for humanitarian reasons, journalism, part of a Non-Governmental Organization, or for legitimate business purposes, that person could be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program on a case-by-case basis.
The real concern is how the European Union will react to this new United States law. Due to the fact that the Visa Waiver Program is a reciprocal Act, representatives of the European Union have threatened to enact similar restrictions on U.S. Citizens, who are dual nationals with one of the above four mentioned countries, traveling to Europe.
There are some changes that Congress is attempting to make now that they have realized the full backlash of this new law. There is a bill currently being circled in Congress to repeal the discriminatory provision of the law, as it relates to individuals who would fall into this category strictly based on their nationality. This would not apply to those individuals who have recently visited one of these countries.
At this point, all we can do is wait and hope that the discriminatory nature of this new law is overturned and that the European Union doesn’t impose the same discriminatory restrictions on U.S. Citizens.
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