Washington, DC – The European Commission announced on July 13, 2016, that it would not reciprocate restrictions on American travelers in response to travel restrictions effected by the U.S. on European travelers.
The EU was obligated to consider suspending the Visa Waiver Program, which enables visa-free travel between the U.S. and thirty-eight countries including most EU countries, for all Americans due to longstanding issues regarding U.S. restrictions on certain EU citizens. These concerns were complicated by new U.S. restrictions in December that restrict dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria from visa-free travel to the U.S. as a result of the passage of the the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (H.R. 158).
The Commission noted that suspending the Visa Waiver Program for Americans could have detrimental economic and political consequences for the bloc and negatively affect relations with the U.S. The EU will instead continue to hold meetings with the U.S. in an effort to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all EU member states.
In a report accompanying the announcement, the European Commission noted that there had been “no progress” in favorable legislative efforts, including the Equal Protection in Travel Act (H.R. 4380/S. 2449) that would remove the restrictions on dual nationals imposed by H.R. 158. While bipartisan legislation has been introduced, key Members of Congress are blocking the bills from receiving debate on the floor.
NIAC Action released a statement welcoming the EU decision, but will continue efforts to fight the discriminatory U.S. visa waiver restrictions as advance legislation including EPTA to repeal the restrictions.