Last week, we posted a Travel Warning in anticipation of President Trump signing an Executive Order (EO) impacting immigration. On Friday, January 27th, 2017, Trump signed the EO titled “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry To The United States.” Over the weekend, chaos ensued at airports around the United States as international travelers with valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas and refugees were turned away, detained or sent home on the next flight out of the United States. In the midst of national and global condemnation not only about the EO but also at the contradictory, poorly planned implementation of this EO, federal judges around the United States granted stays or barred federal officials from detaining or removing individuals subject to the EO.
Here is where things stand as of Monday, January, 30, 2017. Amongst other things, the Executive Order:
- Suspends entry of anyone with a nonimmigrant visa (i.e. anyone with a student visa (F-1) or work visa such as a B-1/B-2, F-1, J-1, H-3, H-1B, L-1, O-1, etc.) or immigrant visa (i.e. green card holder) from 7 designated countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, for 90 days. Additionally, after 90 days, travel is not automatically reinstated. Instead, DHS is required to report whether countries have provided the required information.” If not, the country would have 60 days to comply, or the travel ban would become indefinite. The Trump administration could expand these countries beyond the 7 listed countries.
- After much confusion this weekend, CBP confirmed on Sunday evening (January 29th) that lawful permanent residents will likely be subject to further questioning upon arrival in the United States but absent any derogatory information, would be granted a national interest exemption.
- Suspends the refugee program for 120 days and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
- Suspends the waiver of visa interviews program at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, requiring interviews for all visa applicants. In the past, some embassies waived interviews for certain renewal applicants (e.g. H-1B visa holder applying to renew the H-1B visa), children under the age of 14 and elderly applicants over the age of 80).
- The Department of State confirmed that the issuance of visas to national of the 7 designated countries has been suspended immediately until further notification.
What is unclear at this point:
- The EO may impact the entry to the United States of anyone who is a dual national (i.e. someone born in one of these 7 designated countries who has a passport from another country or who has passports for both countries. For example, someone born in Sudan with a UK passport).
- The EO may impact the entry of those who have merely traveled to one of these 7 designated countries. NB. The United States already made changes to the Visa Waiver program (ESTA) in 2016, restricting eligibility for 1) nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country) and 2) nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria. Individuals impacted by this change are now required to apply for a traditional B-1/B-2 visa at a U.S. consular post.
For now, we strongly recommend that anyone who could be impacted, (i.e. your friends, colleagues, co-workers, employees and family members from any of the designated 7 countries, who are in the United States with valid visas or green cards), postpone any international travel to avoid complications on their return to the United States.
Please note that this travel ban only impacts the above-mentioned individuals who are citizens or nationals of these 7 designated countries or travelers who travel to these countries. It does not impact anyone else from non-designated countries.
The situation is still very fluid as everyone (including the government) scrambles to deal with the situation, but Loke Walsh Immigration Law will keep you posted with any updates.