The recent Executive Order (E.O.) banning visas and travel to the U.S. for citizens of seven countries has caused turmoil and distress for immigrants, their families, and their employers or businesses. The E.O. also imposes other restrictions that could affect immigrants from other countries as well. We are constantly monitoring the situation and expect changes to the implementation of the order at any time.
Here is what we know so far on the immigration restrictions imposed by the E.O.:
-Ban on entry of nationals of Muslim-Majority Countries. For at least 90 days since January 27, 2017, nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are banned from entering the United States.
–Who is banned? According to a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo, the ban includes “nearly all travelers, except U.S. citizens, traveling on passports from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.” Other countries could be added to this list at any time.
–Are Dual Citizens Banned? According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the DHS has stated that “the ban included dual citizens who hold passports from a designated country as well as a non-designated country, BUT that CBP would be processing people based on how they present themselves at primary inspection.” However, there are conflicting reports on this from news sources.
–Are Those with Lawful Permanent Residence (“Green Cards”) Banned? The DHS has stated that “the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest” and so, “absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in [DHS's] case-by-case determinations.” We understand this to mean LPRs should generally be allowed to board airplanes and enter the U.S. but could be subject to extended questioning before admitted. If asked to abandon or give up your permanent residence, do not. You may be presented with a form I-407, Abandonment of Permanent Residence. You are not required to sign the form and you should not do so even if threatened with court action.
-Suspension of Visa Processing and Other Immigration Benefits. For at least 90 days since January 27, 2017, nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen cannot apply for or receive visas, including immigrant visas (green card). Other countries can be added to this list at any time. There is a narrow “national interest” exception that allows issuance of visa or other immigration benefits to nationals of such countries. Posted on the Department of State website: “ Per the Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to nationals of the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time. If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND. You will not be permitted entry to the Embassy/Consulate. We will announce any other changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available.”
-Immigration applications in the U.S. suspended for nationals of the 7 countries? According to AILA: “Media articles have reported that USCIS has suspended the adjudication of certain affected immigration benefits. Given the language of the Executive Order and the reports, it appears likely there has been or will be some directive to USCIS on how to handle benefits applications. AILA has contacted USCIS, but has been unable to confirm these reports definitively.”
-Suspension of Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP). The VIWP grants waiver of a consular interview to low risk travelers who have already been vetted previously by the government. The suspension of this program means everyone must interview at the embassy, even for renewals of visas. Expect longer wait times for visa issuance if you are applying for an H-1B or other work visa.
-Suspension of Refugee Program. Refugee admissions are suspended for 120 days for all refugee applicants and indefinitely for Syrian refugees. In addition, refugee limit is reduced to 50,000 from 110,000 for the rest of this fiscal year, ending September 30, 2017.
There are other requirements in the E.O. which will likely change or extend processing times for many immigration benefits. The situation is very fluid, especially considering the many lawsuits that have been filed and are pending. In these uncertain times, any immigrant should consult an attorney before travel or taking any action that could affect their immigration status. Employers should also consult with an attorney to avoid disruption to operations.
This post is an educational service of Ann Massey Badmus, partner of Scheef & Stone, LLP and is not intended to be legal advice. For legal advice for your specific circumstances, you are invited to contact me.