Economy, Business And Markets

Iranian-Americans Still Facing Banking Woes

Iranian-Americans Still Facing Banking Woes
Iranian-Americans Still Facing Banking Woes

Although Iran and the six world powers reached a nuclear agreement last week to lift sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limiting its nuclear activities, the eventual removal of sanctions on dealing with several major Iranian banks seems unlikely any time soon to help thousands of Iranian-Americans easily conduct bank transactions, a report says.

As Washington tightened sanctions on nearly all trade with Iran in recent years, international banking transfers that most Americans take for granted have become increasingly fraught for the roughly 500,000 US-based Iranian-Americans, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Iranian-Americans and their families seeking to send and receive remittances have been hard hit, from students at US universities in need of tuition money from home to Iranian-Americans trying to settle estates of deceased parents in Iran.

The US trade ban still makes direct transfers between US and Iranian banks impossible, but the change could open ways for European or Persian Gulf banks to act as intermediaries for money transfers between family members in the United States and Iran, the report said.

A carve-out to the US trade ban with Iran allows for family remittances, but those funds have to be routed through third-country financial entities dealing with Iran.

With a range of non-nuclear US sanctions on Iran staying in place, major banks remain highly wary of dealing with Iranian institutions. The US Treasury is not expected to relax its designation of the entire Iranian financial sector.

About a dozen mostly European banks, including HSBC Holdings Plc. and BNP Paribas, have paid nearly $14 billion in US penalties for sanctions-busting since 2009.

Nonetheless, some foreign financial institutions will eventually want to test the waters, said Eytan J. Fisch, former assistant policy director for the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the sanctions.

“It will be kind of a slow building process, but I do think it will happen,” he said.