Bill Introduced in Congress to Amend Recent Visa Waiver Legislation

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Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 11, 2016 – On January 13, 2016, bipartisan members of Congress introduced a bill to address inequities arising out of a recent amendment to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that affects certain persons with dual nationalities.

“In less than one month from passage of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 in late December 2015, bipartisan legislation has been introduced to eliminate clear discrimination against certain dual nationals of visa waiver countries and of Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Sudan,” said Stewart Rabinowitz, a Dallas immigration attorney with Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “Some of these persons are dual nationals by birth. It does not help the United States to become more secure by preventing people from using a program designed to encourage tourism whose only crime is an accident of birth, unrelated to any wrongdoing whatever on their part.”

As part of a spending bill passed in December 2015, and following terrorist attacks in Paris, Congress restricted the travel privileges of people who are citizens of VWP countries and also nationals of Sudan, Iran, Iraq or Syria. Because citizenship is passed down paternally in Iran, Syria and Sudan, many people are dual nationals of these countries even though they may never have lived there. As an example, a British citizen who was born and raised in London but whose father is a Syrian citizen cannot now use the VWP to travel to the U.S., even though citizens of the U.K. normally eligible and encouraged to use the VWP.

The Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016 addresses these inequities. A coalition of 65 civil rights, refugee, faith and humanitarian organizations sent a letter to Congress in support of the bill, saying that the recent amendment to the VWP results in discrimination based on ancestry, parentage and nationality.

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