The following are some of the key immigration-related implications of President Trump’s March 6 executive order (Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States), with a particular focus on the prospective impact on individual travelers as well as companies with an international workforce with employees who routinely seek entrance to the United States.
The March 20 17 executive order replaces the controversial immigration order that the president signed in January.
The Revised Executive Order’s Immediate Impact on International Travel
Effective beginning March 17, the new executive order:
- Bans travelers from six Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen — from entering the United States for an initial period of 90 days;
- Notably, the March executive order does not prohibit Iraqi citizens from entering the United States (a reversal from the January order).
- Orders the creation of a framework for heightened screening mechanisms and vetting requirements — which will apply to all foreign travelers irrespective of their citizenship;
- The order also requires the implementation of a biometric entry and exit tracking system for international travelers.
- Eliminates the Visa Interview Waiver Program, thereby requiring all visa applicants to appear at a U.S. Embassy for an interview prior to receiving a visa; and
- Prohibits all refugees, irrespective of country of origin, from entering the U.S. for an initial period of 120 days.
The March executive order’s entry ban does not apply to the following travelers:
- Lawful permanent residents of the United States (i.e., ‘green card’ holders)
- Student visa holders (F, M, or J visas)
- Refugees who have been previously admitted to the United States but seek re-entry
- Travelers with approved asylum visas
- Diplomatic visa holders
- Dual citizens who travel under a passport issued by a non-designated country (for example, a German and Iranian dual citizen who seeks entry to the United States with a valid German passport)
- Individuals holding a non-visa travel document, such as an advance parole card
- Any other visa holder who is admitted at the border on a case-by-case basis per the framework detailed below.
However, uncertainty remains over how Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will enforce the new executive order, and retain sole authority to deny travelers from entering the United States at their discretion.
Waivers from Entry Bans
Unlike the January order, the March executive order carves out situations whereby CBP officers may grant case-by-case waivers — admitting individuals who would otherwise be banned from entering the United States — after weighing certain factors such as the individual’s age, family, and professional ties to the United States, whether the individual was previously admitted under the same immigration status, etc. Though it is not clear how CBP will apply these exceptions, examples of travelers who may qualify for a waiver include children or infants, those with relatives/spouse/children in the United States, business travelers principally based within the United States, and frequent international travelers routinely approved to enter the United States. Customs officers may also grant waivers if an individual’s admission is in the national interest, or when barring entry would cause heretofore-undefined “undue hardship.”
Practical Impact of the Executive Order
The March order could lead to a decrease in demand for international travel to the United States for a number of reasons:
- The executive order’s travel ban, which currently applies to six Muslim-majority nations, contains a mechanism whereby other countries could later be added.
- Although the executive order’s travel restrictions are temporary on their face, they could become permanent if certain nations do not comply with as yet undetermined heightened screening and vetting procedures.
- As a result of the suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, many types of visa applicants will now be required to appear at a U.S. Embassy for an interview by a consular officer, leading to increased fees, wait time, processing time, and a greater likelihood of denial.
- The executive order also mandates a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the Untied States regardless of immigration status, which could result in processing delays and unexpected costs for those seeking to travel to the United States.
- The potential addition of other countries to the travel ban, the possibility of temporary bans becoming permanent, and overall unpopularity of these and future travel policies — especially if perceived as a pretext for banning Muslims from entering the United States (particularly those from the Middle East) — could lead to a direct decline in demand for international travel to the United States.
While the March executive order has narrow applicability compared to the January order it replaces, uncertainty regarding its implementation remains. Our recommendations — to reduce travel, adequately prepare employees who travel internationally, and remain prepared for potential issues —remain.