Over the past week, President Donald J. Trump signed three Executive Orders involving US immigration issues. The Executive Order signed on January 27, 2017, was somewhat unexpected in terms of its focus and the extent of its reach. Entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” the order has an immediate impact on millions of legal immigrants, nonimmigrants and US businesses.
Since the order was signed, there have been numerous announcements from the US Department of Homeland Security, including US Citizenship & Immigration Services and US Customs & Border Protection, as well as the US Department of State. Many of these announcements have been contradictory or have been superseded immediately by other information. This is an ever-changing situation, but the following information is current as of press time:
- Nonimmigrant and immigrant visa processing has been suspended for nationals of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
- Issuance of visas has been suspended for a period of 90 days. The US embassies and consulates have cancelled immigrant visa appointments for the month of February. Further cancellations are expected.
- Suspension of visa processing does not include those traveling on diplomatic visas; NATO visas; C-2 and C-3 visas for UN and foreign transit; and G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visas.
- Nationals of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in possession of valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas are barred from entry to the United States for a period of 90 days.
- Immediately after the Order was signed, many nationals of the aforementioned countries boarded flights to the United States. These travelers experienced long waits in the inspections area, only to be denied admission to the United States. At the present time, airlines will not board individuals from the aforementioned countries who hold nonimmigrant or immigrant visas.
- Nonimmigrant and immigrant visas of nationals of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen have been provisionally revoked.
- Revocation goes hand-in-hand with the ban on travel to the United States, but it is still unknown whether those holding such visas will need to have them reissued in the future or if their visa status will be reinstated in some manner.
- Nationals of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen may be issued visas or granted other immigration benefits on a case-by-case basis if the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security determine it is in the national interest to issue visas or benefits to such individuals.
- At the present time no procedure has been announced for requesting review of a visa application under the “national interest” exception.
- It has been determined that nationals from the seven countries who are US permanent residents will be readmitted to the United States as being in the national interest, provided no derogatory information about an individual is uncovered.
- The policy on readmission of permanent residents was a tremendous relief to many who initially feared being stranded abroad despite their permanent resident status. Although such individuals are being readmitted to the United States, they may experience lengthy inspection delays at US airports before being admitted to the United States.
- The Visa Interview Waiver Program has been suspended for a period of 90 days.
- Under the program, nationals of certain countries who were frequent travelers to the United States were able to have their nonimmigrant visas reissued without interview at a US consulate or embassy. Because of the suspension, anyone who needs to have a visa reissued must follow the usual procedure for scheduling an interview at a US consular post. It is unknown how many individuals will be subject to the suspension; therefore there may be substantial delays in securing a visa appointment at a consular post in the future.
- The Visa Interview Waiver Program is separate and distinct from the Visa Waiver Program, which allows nationals of select countries to travel to the United States as visitors for periods of up to 90 days without a visa. At the present time there have been no changes to this program.
- The US refugee program has been suspended for 120 days.
- The suspension applies to all refugees from any country. The Order indicates that the refugee program will be reviewed to determine procedures to ensure that refugees are appropriately screened prior to admission to the United States.
- Sources have indicated that naturalization and citizenship applications continue to be adjudicated for applicants from all countries, including the seven listed countries. Additionally, interviews continue to be conducted for immigrant visa petitions and applications for adjustment of status filed in the United States. This policy may vary from office to office and may change in the future. The status of nonimmigrant visa petitions filed on behalf of individuals from the seven countries is currently unknown, although rumors have circulated that such petitions are currently being held without adjudication until further notice.
The Executive Order has left many questions unanswered and many individuals stranded outside the United States. The impact on families, businesses, nonprofit organizations, medical facilities, scientific research centers and universities has been profound. The Order indicates there may be other countries added to the list, raising concerns among nationals from other countries. Clearly, anyone who is a national of one of the seven countries and who is in the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa should not leave the United States. It is recommended that nationals of the seven countries who are permanent residents carefully consider their travel needs before scheduling travel. Other foreign nationals who will be traveling and need to have a visa reissued while abroad should be sure to plan their consular visit well in advance of their departure from the United States and leave enough time abroad for the visa to be issued.