65 Organizations Urge Congress to Pass Bill to Fix Visa Waiver Discrimination

February 4, 2016, Washington D.C. – An impressive coalition of 65 different civil rights, faith, refugee and humanitarian aid organizations joined together to send a letter to Congress, voicing their support for the bipartisan Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016, proposed by Senator Flake (R-AZ). The legislation that would strip the dual nationality provisions contained in the visa waiver program reforms passed into law late last year. 

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 participating countries to travel to the U.S., Europe, Japan, and South Korea without a visa for stays of 90 days or less. The program reforms passed into law would exclude dual nationals from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria or anyone who has traveled to those countries in the past five years from visa-free travel to the United States.

“Given that citizenship is passed down through the father in Iran, Sudan, and Syria, many dual nationals will be barred from visa-free travel under the VWP based solely on their heritage. For example, a British citizen who has lived in London her entire life will lose her visa-free privileges if her father is a Syrian citizen, even if she herself has never been to Syria,” the groups wrote. “Furthermore, because the VWP operates on the basis of reciprocity, the 2015 visa waiver travel restriction risks inviting the 38 VWP countries to erect similar bans on dual nationals of the United States.”

The changes proposed in the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016 will address this matter by repealing the provisions aimed at restricting certain dual nationals of the 38 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

In conjunction to this effort, in a letter to the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House, Senator Flake explained that such provisions “not only [send] the wrong message to those who have fled the very circumstances we are seeking to address, but would no doubt court reciprocal treatment of similar U.S. citizen dual nationals from our European allies.”

PAAIA has signed on to this letter and is continuing to be in direct communication with Members of Congress to express Iranian American opposition to the Visa Waiver Program reforms. But we can’t do it without the support of the community! Click here to take action and join our campaign!

Click here to read the House letter.

Click here to read the Senate letter.



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