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Testimony

The Role of Iranian Dual Nationals in Sanctions Evasion

Testimony for House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Subcommittee on National Security and Subcommittee on Government Operations
10th February 2016

Download the full testimony here

Chairmen DeSantis and Meadows, ranking members Lynch and Connolly, members of the committee, on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, I thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Entry into the United States under the Visa Waiver Program is a privilege, not a right, bestowed on foreign nationals wishing to visit from a select group of countries. Those countries earned this privilege based on specific criteria, and may lose it if they fail to meet those conditions – as has happened to Argentina and Uruguay in the past.

Today we are here to discuss not whether Congress unreasonably deprived countries of this privilege, but whether it is reasonable to deny it to a select group of visitors from Visa Waiver countries on the basis that they are dual nationals of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I contend that the exception for dual nationals of Iran and Visa Waiver countries is, on balance, a sound and not unduly burdensome measure. Dual nationals may still come to the United States, but now need to apply in person for a visa. This measure should not be undermined for fear that Iran may view it as a violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement or because of fears of retaliatory measures from Visa Waiver countries. As I indicate in my testimony, the added layer of due diligence – requiring a visit to a U.S. consular section and an interview with an official – is critical to the national security of the United States.

Tehran, after all, has long relied on Iranian nationals who are dual passport holders to pursue illegal activities, including terrorism, illicit finance, and procurement of technology for its ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. Clearly, not every dual national is an Iranian agent. But virtually all agents of the Iranian regime who over the past decade were involved in conspiracies to commit acts of terrorism, illicit financial activities, nuclear and ballistic procurement, were dual passport holders. The Visa Waiver exception will make it more difficult for them to enter the United States and engage in criminal activities on American soil.