On 27 January 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (“EO”) that temporarily banned travel for all immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries, suspended the US refugee program and ordered his administration to develop “extreme vetting” measures for immigrants from certain designated countries that posed a national security risk. The EO was implemented immediately and resulted in confusion at airports with some travellers being sent back to their country of origin and others being detained upon entering the United States.
The Order bans travel to the United States for nationals of seven designated countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for a period of 90 days. The EO suspends entry of both immigrant and non-immigrant individuals from the seven countries with some exceptions for diplomatic and government visas.
The ban initially applied to lawful permanent residents – i.e. green card holders. Subsequent to the issuance of the EO, however, it was clarified by the Administration on Sunday, 29 January that the travel ban would not affect legal permanent residents unless they posed a threat to US national security. US citizens are not subject to the ban including those with dual nationality in the US and one of the seven countries of concern. It is unclear at this time if the ban will apply to other dual nationals – individuals born in one of the seven countries who are now a citizen of another country. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson confirmed in Parliament that the UK Government had received assurances from the US Government and from the US Embassy in London that British passport holders who hold dual nationality with one of the countries of concern will not be impacted by the EO.
The ban is in place for 90 days but it may be extended beyond this period and could be expanded to include other countries.
Foreign nationals from the seven designated countries should avoid international travel within the next 90 days. US Customs and Border Protection officers at border crossings, US airports and at pre-flight inspection are not permitted to admit individuals who are nationals of the designated countries. Those in the United States as non-immigrants, permanent residents and adjustment applicants should avoid international travel for the duration of the ban.
Suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program
The suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Programrequires all individuals seeking a non-immigrant visa to attend for an interview at a US Consulate. Under this program certain applicants could apply for their US visas by mail or by a “drop box” system. The suspension of this program is likely to result in delays in visa processing at all US consulates worldwide. The Visa Interview Waiver Program is different to the Visa Waiver Program that allows nationals from participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa. The Visa Waiver Program remains in effect.
Suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Program
The US Refugee Admissions Program has been suspended for at least 120 days and Syrian refugees are indefinitely barred until the President feels that “sufficient changes” have been made to screening procedures.
The Refugee Program will be capped at 50,000 refugees for the 2017 fiscal year, down from the 110,000 limit put in place under the Obama administration.
As the US Government has not provided full guidance on the implementation of the Executive Order, and several federal courts have issued orders that may impact its implementation.