United States: FAQs On The Impact Of The Executive Order Suspending Admission To The U.S. Of Foreign Nationals From Certain Designated Countries

On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order, "Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States," which suspended admission to the United States of foreign nationals from the following countries for a period of at least 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The executive order also suspended implementation of the Visa Interview Waiver Program (which is also known as drop-box). This order was effective immediately upon issuance. Several issues related to the order still require clarification. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the executive order.

Official guidance from U.S. federal agencies on implementation of this order may continue to be issued throughout the 90-day period. The information contained within these FAQs is based upon guidance available as of February 1, 2017, and we will note any updates based on subsequent guidance.

Nonimmigrants (B-1, H-1B, L-1, O-1, E-3 etc.)

Q: I am a nonimmigrant visa holder from one of the designated countries, and I am currently in the United States. Will I be impacted?

A: The order suspends entry of nonimmigrant visa holders into the United States, but does not require nonimmigrant visa holders from the designated countries who are already present in the United States to depart the country.

Q: I am a nonimmigrant visa holder from one of the designated countries, and I am currently outside the United States. Will I be allowed to enter the country?

A: Admission to the United States will likely be denied at all ports of entry (air, land, and sea).

Q: I am from one of the designated countries and have a visa appointment scheduled at a U.S. Consulate abroad. May I still attend my visa appointment?

A: No. The U.S. Department of State has issued a statement confirming that, if you are from one of the designated countries and already have an appointment scheduled, you should not attend your appointment. The U.S. Department of State has advised that it will not permit entry to the Embassy or Consulate.  

Q: Are any nonimmigrant visa categories excluded from this order?

A: The executive order does not suspend entry for foreign nationals traveling on 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, even if these foreign nationals are from a designated country. 

Q: I am a nonimmigrant visa holder from a designated country. I am currently abroad, and I have an urgent need to enter the United States. Are there any exceptions to the travel ban?

A: The executive order states that the secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals from the designated countries. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has advised that both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) can review individual cases and grant waivers on a case-by-case basis if that individual's admission to the United States is deemed to be in the national interest and if the individual does not pose a national security threat. However, CBP retains the sole authority on whether to admit an individual to the United States. 

Neither the DHS nor the DOS has released guidance on the process by which an individual may apply for an exception, or the criteria that will be used to adjudicate these exceptions. Without official guidance on how a nonimmigrant may qualify for this exception, it is uncertain what documentation or circumstances may be deemed to warrant a waiver.  

Q: I am a nonimmigrant visa holder from a non-designated country, but I have traveled to a designated country. Will I be allowed to enter the United States? 

A: The executive order only suspends admission for nationals "from" a designated country.  However, you may be subject to additional questions and review by CBP. 

Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders)

Q: I am a lawful permanent resident and a national of a designated country. Will I be allowed to board an airplane to the United States?

A: Permission to board an airplane is granted by airlines. However, boarding an airplane does not indicate that you have been cleared for entry to the United States. Your admission will be reviewed by a CBP officer upon arrival at a port of entry. At some airports, individuals pass through CBP at the point of departure.

Q: I am a lawful permanent resident and a national of a designated country and I am currently outside the United States. Will I be allowed to reenter the United States?

A: The plain text of the executive order applies to lawful permanent residents from designated countries. It is not certain that you will be allowed to reenter the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security has released a statement affirming that entry of lawful permanent residents is in the national interest and has released guidance that lawful permanent residents are eligible for national interest waivers. However, the Secretary of Homeland Security further stated that lawful permanent residents who hold citizenship from a designated country will only be admitted after a review for significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety. Thus, admission will be determined on a case-by-case basis and is not automatic. 

Individuals who choose to apply for admission can expect to be subjected to extensive review and delay at the port of entry. There is no guarantee of admission.

Q: I am a lawful permanent resident and a national of a designated country and I am in the United States. May I travel outside the United States and reenter?

A: This executive order does not restrict your ability to travel outside the United States. However, persons who travel outside the United States are not guaranteed readmission (please refer to the prior question).

Q: What should I do if I am asked to abandon my lawful permanent resident status when I request admission to the United States?

A: Abandoning your green card can carry significant implications for your rights and options moving forward. Thus, individuals should carefully consider the significant consequences of such an action and should make such a decision only after becoming fully informed about their legal rights and options. 

Q: I am a lawful permanent resident and a national of a non-designated country, but I have traveled to a designated country. Will I be allowed to reenter the United States? 

A: The executive order only suspends admission for nationals from a designated country.  However, you may be subject to additional questions and review by CBP at the port of entry. 

Dual Citizens: United States and Designated Countries

Q: I am a dual citizen of the United States and one of the designated countries. May I travel internationally and reenter the United States?

A: The plain language of the executive order applies to nonimmigrant and immigrant entry and does not apply to United States citizens. You must present your U.S. passport at the port of entry.

Dual Citizens: Designated Country and Non-Designated Country

Q: I am a dual citizen of one of the designated countries, as well as a country not on the list. May I travel internationally and reenter the United States?

A: The DOS has provisionally revoked all "valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas of nationals from" the designated countries. This may include individuals who hold citizenship from one of the designated countries, even if the individual also holds citizenship from another country. CBP has clarified that foreign nationals who request admission will be treated according to the travel document they present. However, this website posting is not legally binding. Individuals who hold dual citizenship with a designated country should expect increased questioning, screening, and delays when applying for readmission. Thus, such individuals who choose to travel internationally should understand that readmission to the United States is not guaranteed and that utilizing the passport of the non-designated country may be advantageous.

Q: I previously held citizenship from one of the designated countries, but not anymore. I am now a citizen of a country not on the designated list. Will I be allowed to enter the United States?

A: The executive order applies to all individuals "from" a designated country. There is no definitive guidance regarding individuals who previously held citizenship with a designated country. As previously noted, although CBP has clarified that foreign nationals who request admission will be treated according to the travel document they present, this website posting is not legally binding.  Individuals who previously held citizenship from a designated country, or who previously asserted a claim of citizenship to a designated country, can expect increased questioning, screening, and delays when applying for readmission. There is no guarantee of admission. 

General Information

Q: How long will the travel ban be in effect?

A: The ban will last for at least an initial 90-day period from the date of the order (through April 27, 2017). However, the timeline may be extended.

Q: I have heard that implementation of the executive order has been limited by litigation and that some foreign nationals from designated countries who were detained were allowed to enter the United States. Does this mean I am safe to travel even if I am from one of the designated countries?

A: No. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has stated that it will continue to implement the executive order. Admission to the United States will likely be denied to an individual who is a nonimmigrant from a designated country. As noted above, lawful permanent residents from one of the designated countries will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

Visa Interview Waiver Program

Q: I planned to renew my visa through the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP), may I still do so?

A: The executive order suspends the VIWP, also known as the drop-box, requiring all nonimmigrant visa applicants to attend an interview unless an interview is not required by statute. However, exact procedures may vary by country and the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Individuals hoping to renew their visas should follow any instructions from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate at which the individual has applied.   

Q: Will the executive order affect my visa appointment interview if I am not from one of the designated countries?

A: Suspending the VIWP will place an additional burden on U.S. consulates and embassies (particularly high-volume posts) by increasing already extended interview wait times and processing times. Consequently, travel plans should take into account the additional processing time that may be needed for visa issuance.

Q: Does the executive order affect the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which permits citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa?

A: No. The VWP was not addressed in the executive order. Citizens or nationals of the participating VWP countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP, unless also a national of Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan.

In addition, nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or have been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country) are not eligible to be admitted to the United States under the VWP.

The text of the executive order is now published on the White House website: Protecting the National From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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