US Visa Changes may Torpedo Iran Deal Implementation

By Reza Nasri Tabrizi, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Will changes to US Visa Waiver Program torpedo Iran deal implementation?

As it currently stands, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 38 countries — namely European states, Australia, Japan and South Korea — to travel to the United States without having to obtain a visa.

However, the US House of Representatives passed a bill (H. R. 158) on Dec. 8 that aims to exclude from this program all dual nationals from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, and anyone else who has traveled to those countries in the past five years.

If the bill passes through the Senate and is signed into law, this means in practical terms that for instance any British, French, German, Australian or Japanese citizen who has recently traveled to one of these four destinations loses his or her automatic eligibility to enter the United States without a visa. Thus, those affected would have to go through a visa application process before being able to gain permission to travel to the United States.

Proponents of the bill argue that the new restrictions are meant to close the loopholes and “enhance” security measures for the VWP, in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

However, critics rightly question this claim, pointing at the “politicized” character of the bill and stressing the fact that the legislation unduly takes aim at Iran, a country at war with the Islamic State and where the terrorist organization has no physical presence, while conveniently leaving out countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan, from whose territories numerous terrorist attacks conducted on US soil have either been planned, enabled, funded or motivated.

Beside this valid criticism, the bill also raises at least two concerns with regard to US obligations on the international plane: one regarding those under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) laws and regulations, and the other concerning those under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and six world powers in July.

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