It’s not about just about who’s coming into the U.S., but how other countries might respond.

By Nikki Ekstein
January 22, 2016
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Last December, the U.S. government made an update to its foreign visa policies as a response to the terrorism attacks in Paris. In order to tighten security, a series of changes were implemented immediately. Among them: more thorough identity verification procedures for travelers from 38 countries where visas are not currently required for entry into the U.S., and screenings that keep out anyone who has recently visited “terrorist safe havens.”

Yesterday one more change was quietly introduced. Now, travelers will have to secure a visa to visit the United States—regardless of their nationality—if they have dual citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, or have visited those countries in the last five years.

For a majority of Americans, the change will foster a feeling of security rather than inconvenience—the legislation applies to those entering the United States rather than U.S. citizens. But concerns are bubbling up about how Americans of Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese, or Syrian descent might be adversely affected.

In many instances, visa policies have been enacted on a reciprocal basis; if the U.S. doesn’t require a visa for French travelers, then France won’t require one for American travelers, and so on. This raises the possibility for second-generation Americans with dual citizenship to be screened for visas when traveling to Europe—even if they’ve never set foot in their parents’ home country. Currently, the U.S. allows dual citizenship with Syria and Iran, and Syria considers children of Syrian parents to be citizens, regardless of where they are born.