A BBC journalist has been stopped boarding a plane from London to the US because of her dual British - Iranian nationality. Rana Rahimpour, a presenter at the BBC’s Persian service based in London, was stopped at Heathrow airport on Tuesday before catching a flight to New Jersey. US authorities told her she could no longer fly to the US under the visa waiver program because of her Iranian citizenship. It is an embarrassing episode for the US authorities that highlight the consequences of new legislation passed by the US Congress which means some dual nationals who could previously visit the US for 90 days without a visa must now obtain one. The measure punishes all Iranian dual nationals regardless of their affiliation to the Iranian government as well as British people or other European citizens who have travelled to Iran in the past five years. “Three days after lifting Iran sanctions, US denied Esta/visa waivers for me and another two British citizens [because] we have Iranian nationality too,” Rahimpour tweeted after being stopped. She told the Guardian she was “devastated” because she was planning to see her brother after a year and half and was to attend a surprise birthday party. Rahimpour, 33, posted a photo of herself sobbing next to her two-year-old daughter, writing: “My fully British daughter can’t attend her American cousin’s birthday [because] her mum was born in Iran.” A large number of Iranians are angry about the changes, which deprive them of the previously available visa waiver program because of the place of their birth. The legislation also means a British national who has travelled to Iran over the past five years will no longer be able to visit the US without a visa. The law will have dramatic consequences for Iran – particularly its tourism industry – at a time when it is reintegrating into the international community following the landmark nuclear agreement. “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?” asked one commentator who wished to remain anonymous. Rahimpour’s case is particularly important. Iran has been hostile toward the BBC Persian service staff, harassing them directly or mistreating their family members living in Iran. Because of her work at the Persian service, Rahimpour has not been able to visit Iran for more than seven years. She said she felt unwelcome in the US after being prevented from travelling. “I just feel it’s unfair, it’s unfair to many Iranians,” she said. “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 said the new legislation is confusing and even her contacts in Washington were not sure what changes are being made. “I expect the US to see a difference between ordinary Iranians and politics, and what’s interesting, it comes only three days after lifting sanctions,” she said. Rahimpour said the US risked alienating many Iranians, and was sending a mixed message. “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.” Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post journalist released as part of a prisoner swap between Tehran and Washington at the weekend, is also a dual national. He was jailed in Iran for more than a year. The amendments passed last month affect citizens of 38 countries who could previously visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa if they had visited Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan in the past five years. Dual citizens from the four countries would not be able to travel to the US without a visa even if they were citizens of one of these 38 countries. The legislation has also angered many Iranian-Americans, including Dr Firouz Naderi who has served America for 35 years, climbing the ranks at Nasa, landing spacecraft on Mars and meeting Michelle Obama at the White House. He told the Guardian recently that he now feels he is being treated as a second-class citizen in the country he calls home.