The past 72 hours after Donald Trump signed his Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” on January 27, 2017 have been chaotic, frightening, and full of changing policy about the issuance of U.S. visas and admission of foreign nationals including lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders), particularly for those “from” the 7 designated countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (the “7 Designated Countries”).
At this time, however, we do not advise any foreign national in the U.S. to travel abroad, unless essential. In addition, we advise that all clients should check with Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP attorneys prior to traveling. Although we understand that this advice may be conservative, given a number of recent limited exceptions announced by the Department of Homeland Security over the last few days, we still recommend against international travel (including any on advance parole) for any foreign national in the U.S. until such time as we can clearly evaluate how the real impact of the executive order.
Please see below for an update on the current status of U.S. immigration rules and policies following President Trump’s executive order. This is subject (and likely) to change, given the number of changes that have already occurred since the executive order was signed on Friday.
1. Entry of Non-Immigrant Visa Holders from One of 7 Designated Countries into U.S. Persons entering with a passport from one of the 7 Designated Countries with a U.S. nonimmigrant visa will not be admitted to the U.S. U.S. consulates and embassies will no longer be scheduling nonimmigrant visa interviews for those from the 7 Designated Countries, and many previously booked appointments have been cancelled. Individuals are advised not to pay any visa fees at this time. Additionally, if an individual already has an appointment scheduled that has not been cancelled, do not attend the appointment, since the U.S. officers will not be able to proceed with the visa interview. While the ban does NOT apply to somebody who has merely traveled to one of the 7 Designated Countries, it will increase the likelihood of being questioned about the nature of the visit. It’s possible that the travel ban is longer than 90 days and may be extended to include other countries.
2. Extension of Status, Change of Status, Adjust of Status, and Naturalization Requests from Persons of One of 7 Designated Countries. As of now, since all immigration benefits have been suspended for these nationals, USCIS has also stopped processing immigration applications filed by those from the 7 Designated Countries.
3. Dual Citizens Born in One of 7 Designated Countries Traveling on Another Passport. If an individual has a valid passport that is not from one of the 7 Designated Countries and also has a valid U.S. nonimmigrant visa in that passport, they are eligible for entry, regardless of where the person was born. News from the U.K. and Canada indicates that British and Canadian passport holders have been exempt from the travel ban. However, such persons must be expected to explain his/her dual citizenship and prove they have an unrelinquished residence abroad for those visa categories that require this.
4. Lawful Permanent Resident with Passport from One of 7 Designated Countries. On Sunday, January 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicating that the entry of green card holders is in the national interest and will be eligible for admission into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis. There are also federal courts that have temporarily halted the practice of detaining and refusing admission to permanent residents. The court orders may not be an assurance of admission. Additionally, these individuals are still subjected to “extreme vetting”. Even if admitted to the U.S., green card holders may experience interrogations and major delays in returning to the U.S. CBP officers have been questioning returning permanent residents who are nationals of a designated country or were born in a designated country on their ties to these countries; how often they have visited the country in question; the purpose of their visits; etc.
5. Lawful Permanent Residents and Non-Immigrant Visa Holders Born in or with Dual Citizenship with a Predominantly-Muslim Country (Not a Designated Country). It appears that there could be additional scrutiny of foreign nationals born in certain predominantly-Muslim countries, or for persons with dual citizenship with such predominantly-Muslim countries, who desire to enter the U.S. This could be in the form of interrogations and major delays on entering the U.S. These individuals should be prepared to answer detailed questions related to their ties to their home countries; other countries of concern they may have visited; and purposes of visits. Visa processing times in predominantly Muslim countries may also be increased significantly.
6. Refugees. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has been suspended for 120 days. All travel has been halted for refugees from the 7 Designated Countries. Other refugees not from the 7 Designated Countries “in transit” that had been scheduled to arrive in the next few days, will still likely be allowed entry to the U.S.
7. All Other Foreign Nationals. Expect additional delays when traveling to the U.S. and potentially more difficult processing and increased questioning from U.S. immigration officers. All nonimmigrant visa applicants are to attend an interview, unless an interview is not required by statute. Consulates in India have suspended visa renewals through ‘dropbox’ and will require everyone to appear for interviews. Visa processing times are likely to be increased significantly. In addition, there is likely to increased cases of administrative processing (i.e. increased background checks) when applying for visas. These delays could extend from 90 days to indefinitely, and those that those with skills in any field that may be potentially used to perform terrorist activities (e.g. medical science) are the most likely to be subject.