(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday with overwhelming support that would require all foreigners who have visited Iraq, Syria or Iran, or who hold dual citizenship from those countries, to obtain a visa before traveling to the United States.
The new restriction would hamper travel for those who live in nations currently under the visa waiver program who would otherwise be able to travel to the US visa-free. In addition to the restriction on dual nationals, those who have recently visited any of these three countries – as well as other countries listed by the US as state sponsors of terrorism – would also be required to obtain visas.
The bill, which was quickly drafted amid a debate over immigrants and refugees coming into the US from radicalized regions of the world, passed with the support of 407 congressmen (out of the total of 435). It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Iranian-American and Syrian- American community leaders reacted with alarm to the legislation, fearful its effect will ultimately boomerang back against US dual citizens. The visa waiver program is based on the diplomatic standard of reciprocity, and if the US creates exceptions to its program for certain European nationals, the EU is likely to do the same for US nationals.
“If this bill passes into law, the European Union has warned that it will consider travel restrictions targeting American citizens, because the visa waiver program operates on the system of reciprocity,” said National Iranian American Council Action executive director Jamal Abdi. “This could mean that a second tier of American citizens, including Iranian Americans, would be forced to apply for a visa to travel to many nations in Europe and other eligible countries.
“We hope the Senate revises this legislation so that it does not discriminate on the basis of national origin or risk triggering unequal treatment of American citizens traveling abroad by rejecting this backward proposal,” Abdi added.