Rana Rahimpour: BBC journalist stopped from flying to US over ‘dual British-Iranian citizenship’

People with Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian or  Sudanese dual citizenship or those who have been to those countries in the last five years need a different visa 

A BBC journalist with dual nationality has been prevented from flying to America after changes to their visa rules. 

Iranian born Rana Rahimpor, a presenter at the BBC’s Persian service based in London, was left at Heathrow airport on Tuesday after being denied boarding her flight to New Jersey, with her two-year-old daughter and two cousins.

New visa laws in America state citizens with dual nationalities must apply for a visa at the US embassy.

Previously, travellers only needed an ESTA waiver – an electronic system - which allows tourists up to 90 days in the country without a visa. 

The 33-year-old said the UK foreign office website said the new rules - which state people with Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian and Sudanese dual citizenship or have been to these countries in the last five years, need a different visa – were unclear. 

But the US State Department’s website says authorities have already “begun the process of implementing changes” to the waiver scheme, which was passed by the US Congress.

She tweeted: “Three days after lifting Iran sanctions, US decided ESTA/visa waivers for me and another two British citizens because we have Iranian nationality too.”

The journalist said the new rules were “very unfair”, noting it specifically restricts people who have gained Iranian nationality through marriage or their parents. 

The group had all been due to travel to America to surprise Ms Rahimpour’s brother for a family birthday.

Being denied permission to fly left her “devastated”, she told the Guardian, and led her to post an emotional image of her and her daughter to Twitter. 

She added: “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."

The new rules apply to everyone, including journalists and aid workers. Only soldiers who have been deployed to these areas are exempt, reported the Telegraph.

The US embassy said: "The travellers affected will need to apply for a 10-year non-immigrant visa."

The visa-waiver changes caused a protest by all 29 Eu ambassadors last month after the changes were announced.