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President Trump Signs Executive Order Imposing Travel Bans, Suspension of Refugee Admissions, and Suspension of Visa Interview Waivers

30 Jan

As anticipated, President Trump has signed an executive order that restricts travel to the United States of foreign nationals, including U.S. lawful permanent residents, from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order also suspends immigration benefits to refugees and eliminates the limited exceptions to the interview requirement during the visa process.

Travel Ban

The January 27, 2017 executive order institutes a ban of 90 days on nonimmigrant and immigrant admission into the United States for all foreign nationals, including U.S. lawful permanent residents, from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order does exclude those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, and C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations. Although the order does not say so, U.S. lawful permanent residents from these countries may be allowed admission to the United States at the discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection after a thorough security review on a case by case basis.

The order does not specifically distinguish between terms such as citizenship, nationality, or place of birth. This vague language can be interpreted to apply to anyone who has any relation to these countries, and therefore are ineligible for travel to the United States, even if they have citizenship in a different country that is not on the list. Accordingly, a Syrian national who happens to be a citizen of France likely will not be eligible for admission under the new restrictions, until such restrictions are lifted. Applicants who are unsure of their nationality or status with respect to one of these countries should contact immigration counsel in order to evaluate continued eligibility to travel to the United States.

Ban on Refugees

The order also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for a period of 120 days in order to perform a review of all admission and security and background check procedures for incoming refugees. After this 120 day period, the Secretary of State will only accept refugees from countries that the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence have deemed to have established sufficient safeguards to ensure the security of the United States. Notwithstanding this temporary suspension, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may admit individuals to the United States as refugees if to do so is (1) in the national interest, (2) admission would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United states and (3) the person is a religious minority in his or her country facing religious persecution or admission of the person is under a preexisting international agreement.

The order also suspends the entry of nationals from Syria as refugees until “such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”

The order further proclaims that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the United States and thus suspends any such entry indefinitely until President Trump determines that “additional admissions would be in the national interest.”

Limited Waiver of Interview Suspended for Visas

The order also eliminates all exceptions to the interview requirement during the visa application process. In certain limited circumstances these interview waivers were granted to individuals who were applying for an extension in the same classification of a previously issued visa. This change is anticipated to reduce visa appointment availability and increase adjudication times around the world due to the increased demand for appointments.

Foster LLP will continue to closely monitor all immigration related executive orders and travel issues. We will provide additional information in future Immigration Updates©, on our firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com, and at our upcoming Immigration Update© seminars.