On Friday, January 27, President Trump issued an Executive Order calling for a 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, and banning Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely. The Order also bans nonimmigrants from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. As explained below, however, the Executive Order may be just the first of many actions taken by the new administration affecting foreign nationals in the U.S. or those who wish to come here with visas. Thus, even if you or any of your employees are not from one of the foregoing countries, you may be impacted by future administrative actions.
As reported in the media, over the weekend, all visa issuance to nationals from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen was suspended until further notice. Nationals of these countries have been advised not to apply for any visa, and those with visa appointments scheduled should not attend those appointments. They will not be permitted entry into the U.S. Consulate.
Further, as a result of President Trump’s Order, nationals from the listed countries with valid visas, and who happened to be traveling internationally when the Order issued, reported they were not allowed back into the United States. The Order initially banned both immigrants and nonimmigrants from the listed countries. On Sunday, however, the Department of Homeland Security carved out an exception to allow legal permanent residents (“green card” holders) entry into the U.S. Some nonimmigrant visa holders were also exempted from the ban. Travelers with diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas should not be affected by this Order.
In light of the Order, we recommend that any foreign nationals (whether lawful permanent residents or nonimmigrants) from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (even if you possess dual citizenship with another non-US country not listed above) contact counsel prior to any travel, and, if possible, avoid any international travel for at least 120 days, or until there is additional governmental guidance. Employers with such workers also should avoid sending such workers abroad on assignment. If such circumstances apply, please make arrangements to consult with one of our immigration attorneys as soon as possible.
Immigration developments continue to unfold, apart from the evolving governmental interpretation and enforcement of the Order. Additional countries or restrictions may be added, and current U.S. immigration rules may change very shortly, and without prior notice, regardless of one’s nationality (including those applicable to traditional work visas like H-1Bs). As a result, and given the current climate, we encourage all individuals who are facing expiration of their current immigration status to consider filing renewal applications as soon as possible (most extensions can be filed up to 180 days prior to the expiration date). Likewise, if you are considering a change in status or if you have a nonimmigrant or immigrant status that is immediately available (e.g., a cap-exempt H-1B), you should prepare a filing expeditiously so that it may be submitted under the current rules.