BBC Iranian-British reporter unable to board flight to U.S.

Posted Jan 20, 2016 by Ken Hanly
Rana Rahimpour, a dual Iranian-British citizen was stopped from boarding a plane at Heathrow airport about to fly to New Jersey. She was told she needed a visa and was not eligible to fly under the visa waiver program since she was an Iranian citizen.
A BBC logo is pictured on a television screen inside their New Broadcasting House office in central ...
A BBC logo is pictured on a television screen inside their New Broadcasting House office in central London, November 12, 2012
Carl Court, AFP/File
Rahimpour is a presenter with the BBC's Persian service based in London. Legislation was just recently passed by the US Congress that forces some dual citizens of some countries to obtain visas, whereas previously they could visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. The new regulations will apply to all dual Iranian nationals. Previously, the waivers could be obtained through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization(ESTA).
After she was stopped, Rahimpour tweeted: 3 days after lifting #Iran sanctions, #US denied #ESTA/visa waivers for me and another 2 #British citzns cos we have Iranian nationality too.
The law will also apply to those of UK and other nationalities who have visited Iran in the last 5 years. One commentator said: “Europeans who want to visit Iran for tourism purposes or European companies who want to do business in Iran now have to be worried about their travel to the US. Which EU businessman is prepared to jeopardise his or her ability to travel to the US by going to Iran?” Ironically, Rahimpour has not been able to visit Iran for more than seven years as Iran has been hostile to the BBC Persian service staff and is alleged to have mistreated family members in Iran.
Rahimpour said of the change in regulations: “I just feel it’s unfair, it’s unfair to many Iranians, My cousins who were travelling with me and faced similar problems have left Iran 20 years ago, they don’t know how to write or read Farsi and they are paying the price for the politics of a country that they have nothing to do with.” Rahimpour that the new regulations risk alienating many Iranians. The new regulations were confusing and even her Washington contacts were not sure what changes had been made. Rahimpour pointed out: “Iranians feel they are being treated very unjustly and over the last few weeks. They have said that there has never been a terrorist attack by an Iranian national on American soil. This is very unfair, they referred to the nationality of those involved in 9/11 and you can’t find any Iranians involved.”
Dr. Firouz Naderi an Iranian-American who has served at NASA for 35 years and landed a spacecraft on Mars and even met Michelle Obama at the White House says he now is being treated like a second-class citizen in the country he regards as his home.
Rahimpour had been told by contacts she has in Washington that the new rules would not take effect until April. She had then applied for the visa waiver through the ESTA visa clearance site. She was told she would have a response within 72 hours. Given the information from her Washington contacts she had bought a ticket to fly to New Jersery. The response from ESTA was still pending when she arrived at the airport. She called an ESTA official there to check on her status and was told that her request had been denied due to the new law.
Rahimpour was born in Iran but has lived in the UK since 2008. Her husband is British. She had planned to surprise her brother and her family by traveling to New Jersey to celebrate her nephews' sixth birthday. She was taking her two-year-old daughter and two cousins, also British-Iranian along with her.