State Department Begins Implementing Discriminatory Visa Waiver Changes


The United States Department of State just issued a memo announcing that implementation of the changes to the Visa Waiver Program would begin today. The American Iranian Council has strongly opposed these changes in their current form on the grounds that they are both discriminatory and will not improve national security.

According to the State Department’s memo,

“travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
* Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
* Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.”

The AIC opposes this Act, as it would meaningfully harm US-Iran relations and would unfairly strip Iranian dual nationals as well as travelers to Iran of their equal travel rights. While there is a need to protect the United States from terrorist attacks and from individuals who travel to ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq, there is no terrorist threat emanating from the hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in Europe nor from the many tourists who are eager to visit historical sites in Iran like Persepolis.

Sadly, the implementation of this discriminatory law is already being felt by Iranian-Europeans. BBC Persian reporter Rana Rahimpour was stopped by US authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport, who told her that she could not travel visa free to the US. While visa-free travel to the US is enjoyed by her fellow British citizens, Ms. Rahimpour was discriminated against due to her Iranian nationality.

Partly in response to the calls from the AIC and other organizations to fix the discriminatory legislation, a new bill is being circulated in the Congress, dubbed the Equal Protection in Travel Act (S.2449/H.R. 4380). This Act would remove the clause targeting dual nationals, but would leave intact the restrictions targeting individuals who have traveled to Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Iraq.

You can join the AIC in sending a message to the Congress and the White House that you oppose the inclusion of Iran in this Act and oppose the discrimination against the Iranian diaspora by signing our petition.

Together, we must ensure that our voices are heard in Washington and that this harmful legislation is reversed.

The American Iranian Council


Kayvon Afshari

Kayvon Afshari managed the campaign to elect Hooshang Amirahmadi as President of Iran. In this role, he directed the campaign’s event planning, publicity, online social media, web analytics, and delivered speeches. Mr. Afshari has also been working at the CBS News foreign desk for over five years. He has coordinated coverage of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations, the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and many other stories of international significance. He holds a Master in International Relations from New York University’s Department of Politics, and graduated with distinction from McGill University in 2007 with a double major in political science and Middle Eastern studies. At NYU, his research focused on quantitative analysis and the Middle East with an emphasis on US-Iran relations. In his 2012 Master’s thesis, he devised a formula to predict whether Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that an overt strike would not materialize.