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UMAA Advocacy Responds to Visa Waiver Program Changes

Since 1986, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is what allows US citizens to travel to other participating countries, including most of Europe, without a visa.

However, after the passage of HR158, America will no longer accept nationals of the 38 participating countries through this program if they
1.    Are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan
2.    Have been to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 3/1/11

It is likely that many European countries will adopt policies that mirror that of the United States This means American citizens, including Shia Muslims, who have performed any ziyarat of the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala, Samarrah, Mashad, Qum, or other locations in Iraq, Iran or Syria after 2011 will have to apply for a visa every time they leave the country.

The program disproportionately affects Shia Muslims who perform peaceful religious travel to Iraq, Iran and Syria and does not address the methods used by ISIS to entice new recruits. 

Does this law impact you right now?
No. This law only impacts foreign nationals trying to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program. But if other countries decide to implement the same measures, then you will need to undergo a difficult and expensive visa applicaiton process if you have been on ziyarat in the past 5 years to travel there regardless of whether you are a businessperson, a family travelling, a humanitarian, an alim, a speaker or a community organizer.
Timeline and Current Action
12/16/2015 – The bill was included budget bill and was signed in to law .

12/19/2015 – Secretary Kerry writes to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif assuring him the administration can waive visa requirements for business purposes.

1/13/2016 – Congressiona l Representatives Amash & Conyers of MI introduce HR4380 to repeal the dual-nationality language.  The language pertaining to visits to the countries remains unaddressed..

A bill has been introduced to repeal the dual nationality language.  A second bill to address visitation is expected in March.

1.    UMAA encourages you to call your congressional representative about HR4380, the bill that repeals some of the new requirements, and let them know your opinion on the bill and how you feel about individuals affected by possible visa complications when perform religious travel to Iraq, Iran or Syria
2.    UMAA is working with a coalition to develop a bill that will repeal the remaining portion from law OR to include an exemption of religious travel.  Watch for updates and calls to action on this.

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