February 12, 2016

NIAC Action Commends Lawmakers Urging Visa Waivers for Dual Nationals and Visitors to Iran

NIAC Action released the following statement welcoming two new Congressional letters urging the Obama Administration to utilize its waiver authorities under new Visa Waiver Program law to ensure certain dual nationals and other travelers are not barred from the program:

“We applaud Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and his twelve Senate colleagues, and Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), for sending letters urging the Obama Administration to ensure that the United States does not discriminate against people based on their national origin or family heritage as it implements new changes to the Visa Waiver Program. 

The Durbin Senate letter reiterates that, under the new law, Congress clearly provided the Obama Administration the authority to protect U.S. law enforcement and national security interests by waiving restrictions on certain dual nationals and other categories of travelers. They warn that singling out people based on national origin undermines American values and does not make us safer, and in fact invites similar discrimination against American citizens who are dual nationals.

The Conyers-Lofgren House letter, signed by the the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and on the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee who were directly involved in negotiating with Republican leadership in developing the legislation, also reinforces that the Administration has been fully authorized by the legislation to utilize waiver authorities. The letter urges that additional waivers be utilized for dual nationals as well as certain individuals who have traveled to Iran as dual nationals or for academic purposes. This follows a letter sent by Rep. Jared Huffman and signed by twenty-five other lawmakers last week urging the President to use the waiver both for dual nationals and for individuals traveling to Iran to visit family, for tourism and academic purposes. 

Unfortunately, several other lawmakers have been all-too-eager to play political games with this important civil rights and national security issue. On Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staged hearings in which many members attacked the Administration for utilizing its waiver authority in order to ensure the law does not undermine U.S. national security interests–including humanitarian work, reporting activities, and the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

The Obama Administration must not give in to these meritless protests. We urge the Administration to take all the steps necessary to ensure that our friends in Europe and other Visa Waiver countries are not punished for their heritage or national origin, or for traveling to Iran, and that we do not invite similar prohibitions against Americans. Additionally, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both chambers to fully repeal the restrictions on dual nationals and we urge Congress for its swift passage.


The Durbin letter was signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Back to top