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Arab American News: Reps introduce bill to amend Visa Waiver Program discriminatory restrictions

Arab American News

Washington, DC, January 15, 2016

A group of congress members, including three from Michigan, introduced a bill Wednesday to remove discriminatory limitations that would exclude certain dual nationals from the Visa Waiver Program.

U.S. representatives Justin Amash (R-Mich.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) presented the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016.

The VWP allows citizens of 38 countries— which include most of western Europe— to stay in the United States up to 90 days for tourism or business without a Visa.

The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 tightened security restrictions on those traveling through the VWP by blocking participation by foreign nationals who have visited Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan within the last five years—requiring those individuals instead to go through the longer process of obtaining a visa.

But it also prohibits nationals of participating VWP countries who would otherwise be eligible for the VWP from participating if they happen to be dual nationals of one of those four nations, even if they haven’t recently traveled to one of the restricted countries. This could be especially problematic for dual nationals of countries like Iran and Syria that pass on citizenship from the father, making it possible for someone to be a Syrian or Iranian national without ever having stepped foot in the country.

The restrictions could directly impact American citizens and other nationals because the VWP is based on reciprocity. If the United States discriminates against Europeans who are dual nationals, these partner countries are likely to reciprocate and enact similar restrictions on Americans. 

"Individuals seeking to enter the United States should be evaluated based on the specific security threat they pose. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure our laws judge people based on the content of their character," said Dingell. 

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