Statement on changes to U.S Visa Waiver Program

The European Iran Research Group (EIRG) expresses deep concerns over the implementation of the discriminatory changes to the Visa Waiver Program in the United States.

These discriminatory changes, passed into law by the US Congress on 18 December 2015 under the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, have severe implications for Iranian-European dual nationals, and Europeans that have traveled to Iran in the past five years.

With this law, the United States has unilaterally altered an agreement reached with the European Union on visa waivers. They have already affected Iranian-Europeans, including members of EIRG, whose Electronic System for Travel Authorization was revoked on 21 January 2016 with an email from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency stating that concerned individuals are “are no longer authorized to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program” and must “apply for a non-immigrant visa approximately three months in advance of your desired travel”. Iranian-Europeans holding tickets for imminent travel to the US have been forced to cancel their trips with no compensation, or risk being turned back.

The Visa Waiver Program’s implementation occurs just days after the Implementation Day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between the E3+3 and Iran in July 2015. This agreement places significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, intended to allow Iran to re-enter the world economy after over a decade of isolation. EIRG is deeply concerned that the alterations to the Visa Waiver Program will affect Iran’s ability to effectively receive the benefits of the sanctions relief received following implementation of the deal. Indeed, under paragraph 29 of the JCPOA, the United States and other parties to the agreement must “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.”

Such alterations to the Visa Waiver Program will undermine the spirit that produced the JCPOA. In this the alterations of the program will do a disservice to the many people whose travel and activities are necessary for the continuation of this new founded dialogue.