President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO), Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, on January 27, 2017. The EO has since been limited through federal court orders and somewhat clarified through press releases. Employers with foreign national employees and universities with foreign national students should consider the following in connection with international travel:
- The EO immediately suspended the Visa Interview Waiver program, under which several U.S. consulates, including those in India and Mexico, had allowed visas to be renewed (under certain circumstances) without requiring in-person interviews. While this program is suspended, trips abroad to renew visas will likely take longer because of the need for the interview. Backlogs may also result, so individuals contemplating visa renewals later in the spring may want to book consulate appointments now.
- The Department of State has provisionally revoked visas previously issued to citizens of the countries designated in the EO – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. This means that even if a U.S. visa issued to a citizen of these countries has not yet expired, it is not valid for travel to the United States. Citizens of these countries should not travel abroad without first seeking legal counsel to carefully consider their return, and if they are currently abroad, they must carefully consider if they can seek re-entry to the United States at this time.
- Other countries could be added to the list of countries from which entry is limited. Countries that have a greater risk of being added are Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt.
- Simply visiting the seven designated countries is not grounds for barring admission to the United States, but is likely to cause additional scrutiny.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reported that it will process individuals based on how they present themselves at primary inspection. Dual citizens with passports from one of the seven designated countries and a non-designated country should travel internationally on the passport from the non-designated country if travel is necessary. The treatment of dual citizens is subject to change and travel abroad for these individuals should be carefully analyzed.
- The Department of Homeland Security issued a press release confirming how it will process U.S. permanent residents who are citizens of the seven countries in the EO: they will have to undergo a case-by-case analysis for entry, and their permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor supporting admission as long as the case-by-case analysis does not turn up “significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare.”
- If permanent residents leaving the United States are questioned about abandonment of their permanent resident status, they should be prepared to discuss their ties to the United States, the purpose of their visit outside the United States, and why their stay outside the United States will be temporary. Permanent residents should not voluntarily abandon permanent residency without counsel on the implications.