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Congress Moves to Restrict Travel on the Visa Waiver Program

Tied in to the recent bill to continue funding the federal government and with the terrorist attacks in Paris fresh in their minds, Congress moved forward in November with adding further measures to restrict those with dual-citizenship from benefiting from the visa waiver program.

The new regulations prevent those who are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria from using the visa waiver program to visit the U.S. even if they live in a visa waiver country and have never set foot in these nations.

The visa waiver program (VWP) allows for easier travel for those living in 38 mainly western nations but also inter alia South Korea, Japan, and Chile and permits those citizens of these counties to come to the U.S. without needing a visa. Over 20 million people came to the U.S. last year by way of the VWP. In exchange, Americans can also visit these nations visa-free.

This new bill means that those who for instance have a parent who is a citizen of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria but have since relocated to one of the 38 VWP countries would need to go through additional measures before they may visit the U.S.

Beginning in 2016, such would-be visitors would need to apply for visitor visas, pay a fee of $160, undergo an interview at a U.S. consulate in their native country, and pass further background checks.

Critics of the bill are accusing it of being discriminatory, especially toward those who may be children of those who have fled the violence of these counties’ unstable regimes. The German ambassador to the U.S. opined, saying “Is that the group you want to target? Do you want to target the people who were exiled by the mullahs and penalize them?”

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