farhad emam Farhad Emam
Publish Date : 12/11/2015

The Visa Waiver Act of 2015 and Migration

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Key terms

Visa waiver, tourism, visa, United States, Iran, Syria, Iraq.

Summary

The CNN reported on its website (http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/08/politics/visa-waiver-program-house/) on December 8, 2015 that:

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation on Tuesday (407 to 19) that would overhaul the federal visa waiver program and bar those from Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Sudan, or those who have visited those countries in the last five years, from traveling to the United States without a visa.

The Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 (“The Act”) that amends Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of the USA goes to the Senate next for consideration. If it gets the force of law, it shall have serious impact on different aspects of international trade activities with Iran. In this Legal Report, we will just concentrate on its effects on the tourism of Iran. Our report comprises three parts. In the first part, provisions of the Act are explained. The second part focuses on the EU’s reaction to the Act. In the last part, the potential negative repercussions of the Act on tourism of Iran and migration movements are briefly discussed.

I. The USA Visa Waiver Act of 2015

A. Objectives of the Act

According to the preamble of the Act, its objectives are:

1. To clarify the grounds for ineligibility for travel to the United States regarding terrorism risk;

2. To expand the criteria by which a country may be removed from the Visa Waiver Program;

3. To require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a report on strengthening the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to better secure the international borders of the United States and prevent terrorists and instruments of terrorism from entering the United States, and for other purposes.

B. New developments under the Act

Under subsection 2(a)(2)(C) of the Act, the following reports shall be prepared:

1. REPORTS ON CERTAIN LIMITATIONS ON TRAVEL.—Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this subparagraph and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report on the number of individuals, identified by their countries of citizenship or nationality, who were denied eligibility to travel under the System or whose eligibility for such travel was revoked during the previous year if such individual was determined, in accordance with subsection (a)(6), to represent a threat to the security of the United States.

2. REPORTS ON CERTAIN THREAT ASSESSMENTS - Beginning with the first report under clause (i) of subsection (c)(5)(A) that is submitted after the date of the enactment of this subparagraph and periodically thereafter (together with subsequent reports submitted under such clause (i)), the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report that contains a threat assessment regarding the compliance of foreign governments with the agreements described in subparagraphs (D) and (F) of subsection (c)(2).

C. Consequences of the failure in respecting provisions of the Act

Under subsection 2(b)(2)(B) of the Act, failure of a country in respecting provisions of the Act shall have the following consequences:

(v) ADDITIONAL PROGRAM SUSPENSION AUTHORITY - If the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, determines that a country participating in the visa waiver program has failed to comply with an agreement under subparagraph (F) of paragraph (2), the Secretary of Homeland Security—

“(I) may suspend a country from the visa waiver program without prior notice;

“(II) shall notify any country suspended under subclause (I) and provide justification for the suspension; and

“(III) shall restore the suspended country’s participation in the visa waiver program upon a determination that the country is in compliance with the agreement at issue.”.

II. Reactions to the Act

Among the others, it is reported on the website of immigrationimpact.com on December 9, 2015:

And, according to media reports the European Union is concerned as well. David O’Sullivan, the European Union ambassador to the U.S., said visa-waiver members are “really quite concerned about what is happening and fear that this could be extremely counterproductive.”

III. Impacts of the Act on tourism of Iran and migration movements

According to The Guardian on December 8, 2015:

The change applies to citizens of the 38 countries that currently participate in the visa waiver program. The program allows citizens of those countries, which includes most of Europe as well as Pacific Rim countries like Australia and Japan, to visit the US for 90 days without a visa.

These 38 countries, as mentioned on the website of travel.state.gov are:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

It is claimed that majority of the foreign tourists who travel to Iran are from Spain, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, China, Malaysia and Oman. Five out of these eight countries are on the list of visa waiver program countries. Citizens of Australia, Austria, France, Germany and Greece have also travelled to Iran as tourists during the last decade. The Act, after the Senate and White House review, may discourage tourists of the above countries from travelling to Iran.

Further, it will bring down the value of the US passport in the eyes of those who immigrate to the US to obtain American citizenship. The positive side of this development is to discourage terrorists from using American passport for their international travels. The negative side of it is that it also discourages investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, etc. from investing their money, knowledge and energy in a country that will never trust them completely.

 

GOOD TO KNOW

To learn more about the issues mentioned in this Legal Report, you may read the following texts. If after reading this Legal Report and the following texts, you still have questions that call for detailed responses, you may send them to us by clicking on “Our Services” button and following the procedure explained there.

RELEVANT LEGAL NEWS:

1. Law in Iran Legal News: House Passes Visa Waiver Program Bill, Friday, December 11, 2015.

2. Law in Iran Legal News: Balancing Tourism against Terrorism, Friday, December 11, 2015.

3. Law in Iran Legal News: Visa Waiver Program Reforms & Senate, Friday, December 11, 2015.

 

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