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Visa Waiver Program

 

visaThe American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) opposes the discriminatory travel and dual citizenship prohibitions established by the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (“VWP Act”). The VWP Act imposes a mandatory and categorical bar to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) on any individual who is a dual citizen of an VWP and Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Iran from entering the United States under the program. The VWP Act prohibits persons whom has traveled to Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan since March 1, 2011. On February 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will extend the Visa Waiver Program travel bans to persons whom traveled to Yemen, Somalia and Libya since March 1, 2011.

ADC supports the bipartisan Equal Protection in Travel Act introduced in both the House and Senate, that will remove the dual nationality provisions of the VWP Act. TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Congressional Member to co-sponsor and vote yes to the Equal Protection in Travel Act

An individual’s national origin or family heritage is not a valid or useful criterion by which to judge whether they pose a security threat. Devoting resources to screen people based on their place of birth, residence, national origin, or family heritage is a diversion of resources and counterproductive to securing our nation.There is no empirical evidence to support that these travel bans and citizenship prohibitions will effectively strengthen the Visa Waiver Program. These regulations are more likely to screen out health and aid workers, clergymen, journalists, teachers, translators, businessmen and others who help get their families and loved ones to safety. The bill is not just a visa requirement, it is discriminatory. This Act makes VWP Arab nationals second class citizens in their own country – they are not afforded the same benefits as their fellow nationals.

DHS Regulations provide for some waiver to the travel bans. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:

  • Individuals who traveled on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled as a journalist for reporting purposes;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
  • Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.  See updated information from DHS and CBP

Impact of VWP Act

Beginning January 13, 2016, CBP also initiated a protocol to identify ESTA holders with travel to banned countries, to conduct secondary screening and revoke ESTAs for future travel if travel is confirmed and the government and military exceptions do not apply. More than 17,000 ESTAs have been denied or revoked to date. VWP travelers must travel with an electronic chip passports (“e-passports”). Customs and Border Patrol  will enforce the mandatory use of e-passports for all VWP travel by the legislative deadline of April 2016. Reciprocal  discriminatory restrictions enacted by our VWP country partners will impact over 740,000 American citizens solely based on their national origin and/or family heritage. See ADC’s Issue Memo

 

Congressional Statement Statement for the Record on the Crisis of Confidence: Preventing Terrorist Infiltration through U.S. Refugee and Visa Programs

February 23, 2016 – Comments to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Electronic System for Travel Authorization System of Records

February 22, 2016 – ADC and Coalition Partners Demand DHS Secretary Utilize Legal Waiver Authority to Waive Dual Nationality Provisions

ADC and Coalition Partners Urge Support for HR4380 – Equal Protection in Travel Act

CEOs Oppose Visa Waiver Program Act

ADC Letter to Senate and House to Vote No on HR 158

ADC and Coalition Partners Oppose S. 2337 – Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act

 

Press/Media

European Travel 2016: Loss Of EU Visa Waiver Could Threaten US Tourism, Business And Trade – International Business Times

U.S. Faces Threat of Losing EU Visa Waivers – The Wall Street Journal

EU warns of visas for US citizens if Washington implements visa waiver reforms

50 Organizations Request that DHS Secretary Johnson use Visa Waiver Authority to Eliminate Dual Nationality Provisions

 DHS Expands Discriminatory Visa Waiver Program

ADC Outraged by Discriminatory Provisions in Omnibus Bill

Blog Visa Waiver Program DOES NOT MEAN WAIVER OF Security: HR 158 Just Political Clout for Congress to Say Did Something, A Facade to Discrimination

Past Action Alerts

ADC urges Congress to vote no to H.R. 158 due to discriminatory exclusions

Action Alert: Oppose Blanket Exclusions under the Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act