Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI.), John Conyers (D-MI), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced legislation that would strike the dual nationality provisions contained in the visa waiver program passed into law in late 2015.
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 last year 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.
Due to the fact that the visa waiver program is based on reciprocity, the reforms would likely place reciprocal restrictions from Europe and other participating countries. Iranian Americans and other American citizens could be barred from the program solely based on their national origin or for having traveled to any of the specified countries for any reason. For example, a person that who was born in England but whose father is an Iranian Citizen could be forced to get a visa before visiting the U.S, even if that person has never been to Iran.
While there was overwhelming bipartisan support for the Visa Waiver Program reforms passed last year, there were increasing concerns in Congress with respect to dual nationality provisions. 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. Impacting a group of Americans based solely on their national origin is discriminatory and does little to address our nation’s security.