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February 1, 2016

EU Responds to NIAC Action Concerns on Visa Waiver Reciprocity

Washington, DC – The European Union (EU) responded to a letter from NIAC Action explaining their concern about recent Congressionally mandated changes to the Visa Waiver Program.

The new restrictions prohibit dual nationals from the EU and other Visa Waiver program countries from visiting the U.S. under the program if they are dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan or have traveled to those countries since March, 2011. While the program is based on reciprocity, NIAC Action sent letters to the EU as well as all countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program urging against reciprocal restrictions against American dual nationals or persons who had traveled to Iran, especially as legislative and administrative efforts remain underway to remedy the issue.

EU Deputy Chief of Mission Caroline Vicini writes in the response to that the EU has “taken good note of the provisions that affect dual nationals,” and highlights legislation—supported by NIAC Action and prominent civil rights and immigration organizations—introduced in Congress to repeal the dual-nationals restrictions. “We continue to believe that European Union citizens who are dual nationals of a proscribed country are disproportionately and unfairly affected by this legislation and therefore we closely follow the new legislation introduced by Representative Amash and Senator Flake”.

However, the EU letter response highlights a reciprocity mechanism under EU law and suggests that the bloc may suspend visa-free travel to Europe for all Americans. “This mechanism establishes that if by April 2016, the third countries concerned (i.e. visa free countries) have not lifted the visa requirement for all EU citizens, the commission shall adopt an act temporarily suspending the visa waiver for 12 months for all citizens of those third countries.”

The full EU response letter is here.

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