Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stopped issuing tourist visas to select citizens of several countries last summer, they have been facing increased scrutiny when doing so. Many of these U.S. citizens were heading to trips to our nation’s great destinations.
Hamas, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda groups are not welcome in the United States, either. The U.S. State Department has designated several nations – North Korea, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Libya, and Sudan – as “Countries of Particular Concern,” making them ineligible for tourist visas for U.S. citizens.
Border agents have been scrutinizing both North and South Korean and Iranian visitors since early this year in an effort to stop people from traveling to terrorist and criminal hotspots. But rather than just expanding their existing visa denial process – which is very rare – DHS is taking it up a notch, at the border and across the country. And while DHS is diligent in cracking down on terrorist groups and members of radical regimes, they are turning a blind eye to countries that continue to persecute religious and ethnic minorities, especially members of the LGBT community.
A January report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found that “there is only one country where [non-Orthodox] Christians have virtually no rights – North Korea,” and “virtually no religious freedom in Venezuela or other countries in the region.”
But the state department granted Pakistan visa waivers earlier this year, despite a decades-long history of anti-semitic policies and laws and a recent report that found there are more than 500 known anti-Christian sites in the country.
Iran has executed a record number of Christians this year alone. If you are planning to visit this country, you will need to work much harder to get your tourist visa approved.
Meanwhile, the government shutdown is further limiting their ability to screen citizens who may be in danger.
Reporting by The War Zone