On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Orders barring admission into the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries, suspending all refugee admissions, and barring entry by Syrian refugees. Though no countries are listed on the Order, the intent was the ban on entry into the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen by any persons “from” those countries with nonimmigrant or immigrant visas or status or as refugees. The Order does not apply to U.S. born citizens or naturalized US citizens.
Multiple lawsuits are challenging the Order. On January 28, 2017 federal courts in several districts issued stays limiting the Order, but the Department of Homeland Security through Customs & Border Protection (CBP) is not fully complying with the stays at all airports and ports of entry.
However, on January 29, 2017, Homeland Security issued a statement, indicating that allowing lawful permanent residents to return to the U.S. is in the national interest, so long as there is no serious derogatory information, as determined on a case-by-case basis.
Overall, there is an extremely heightened level of discretion being applied for foreign citizens from Muslim countries (beyond the seven listed), but persons who are allowed to board flights ultimately seem to be allowed to enter the U.S.
Here is a summary of the impact:
Departing the United States
- To minimize the impact of the Order, it is advisable to avoid unnecessary travel outside the United States.
Returning to the U.S. by Air
- For persons currently outside the U.S., plan on extended questioning on return, related to activities inside and outside the U.S. and related to family and friends.
- In some countries, airlines are asking travelers from the 7 countries to sign agreements that if Homeland Security refuses to allow them to enter the U.S., the person will pay the return airfare (under existing agreements, the airlines – not the U.S. government or individuals – are liable to cover the cost).
Returning to the U.S. at a Land Border Crossing
- Entry at land border crossings almost involves more questioning than flying into the U.S. The reason is that some screening occurs through the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) before boarding a flight, but the traveler must wait for the immigration officer at the land border crossing to conduct the screening.
- Some land ports of entry appear to have halted processing all L-1s and TN due to confusion about how broadly the Order was meant to apply.
- National Security Advisor Flynn advised that dual nationals of Canada are not prohibited from entering the United States and usually should be allowed to enter.
Green card holders returning to the U.S.
- Green card holders from countries other than the 7 listed report little difference in the admission process from before the Order.
- Green card holders from the 7 countries who are dual citizens of other countries (such as Canada and the UK) may be subjected to minimal additional screening.
- Green card holders from the 7 countries are being subjected to additional screening, which may involve a few additional questions by the immigration officer in primary inspection at the entry booth, or the person may be sent to secondary inspection for more extensive questioning ranging from a few minutes to several hours.
- Some immigration officers and airline representatives have asked green card holders to sign a form (I-407) to abandon permanent resident status and be allowed to enter the U.S. as a visitor. Permanent residents should not sign a form or relinquish the green card without speaking to a lawyer.
Temporary, nonimmigrant visa travelers
- Temporary visas holders (such as with H-1B, O-1, L-1, F-1 students, business visitors and Canadians and Mexicans with TN status) from the 7 countries may be subjected to enhanced primary or secondary screening.
- Those returning to work generally have less questioning that those entering for the first time.
Visa processing overseas
- Some U.S. embassies and consulates abroad had allowed returning visa applicants to forego an interview under visa interview-waiver programs, i.e., the drop-box for visa renewals. This option no longer exists. Now, all visa applicants must attend an interview.
- Persons from other countries attending visa appointments may end up stuck outside the U.S. for some time and be unable to return while waiting for the visa stamp.
- All U.S. embassies and consular posts were instructed to immediately suspend the issuance of nonimmigrant and immigrant visas for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Visa interviews for affected individuals are being canceled. The Department of State issued an urgent notice to citizens 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.”
Questions on entry
- CBP immigration officers at the Ports of Entry may ask travelers to provide social media access, such as contact for Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, etc. Such requests should be declined, as the information is not required.
- For some travelers, a delay will result from a request to Headquarters in Washington, DC, to clear the person.
- The Order is not intended to apply to nationals of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, & UAE, nor to nationals of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey or other Muslim-majority countries. But some citizens of those countries report being subjected to enhanced secondary screening.
- The highest scrutiny is being applied to citizens of one of the 7 countries, using a passport issued by one of the 7 countries, and travelling to the U.S. from one of the 7 countries.
Impact on USCIS petition and application processing
- USCIS reportedly has ceased processing of all immigration petitions and applications for beneficiaries of the 7 countries, for forms that begin with an “I,” (I-130, I-765, etc.), but are processing forms that begin with “N” (such as N-400 naturalization applications).
Removal or questioning of persons in the U.S.
- Persons with valid status in the United States are not subject to removal under the Executive Order.
- Immigration officers who ask to enter the workplace or a home to ask for information about immigration in most cases may be refused if they lack a warrant.
Access to Counsel
- A person who would like legal representation should ask for a “G-28” while in secondary at a Port of Entry, and even without a G-28, should state that they would like legal representation and to be able to speak to a lawyer and should not be dissuaded by an immigration officer saying the person is not entitled to counsel.