United States: Immigration Under The New Administration: Travel Ban For Nationals From Certain Countries

Last Updated: February 14 2017
Article by Tara L. Vance and Neal N. Beaton

Tara Vance is a Partner for Holland & Knight's New York office.

Neal Beaton is a Partner for Holland & Knight's New York office.


  • A recent Executive Order suspends travel to the United States for most nationals from the following countries: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
  • The temporary travel ban does not currently apply to any other countries or to individuals who have merely traveled to the above listed countries, but it is possible that the suspension will be expanded to include other countries or foreign nationals.
  • It is recommended that foreign nationals from the seven above listed countries not travel outside the U.S. at this time, regardless of status.
  • Even if you are not from one of the designated countries, expect travel delays.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 27, 2017, signed Executive Order 13769, titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," which states that for the 90 days after such date, nearly all travelers to the U.S., except U.S. citizens, who are traveling on passports from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen (the seven countries) will be temporarily suspended from entering the U.S.

The Executive Order does not apply to foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. from the seven countries who are traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and those under G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visas. While the Executive Order applies to all nationals from the seven countries who are nonimmigrants and immigrants, foreign nationals from the designated countries who are U.S. permanent residents and hold a U.S. green card are being allowed to board planes and are being admitted to the U.S. after being sent to secondary inspection at the airport for questioning and screening, which is consistent with the Department of Homeland Security's Fact Sheet released on Jan. 29, 2017.

While the Executive Order has an immediate effect on foreign national travelers from the seven countries, it contains additional orders, such as:

  • in the first 30 days, the Secretary of Homeland Security, along with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, must perform a country-by-country review to determine information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission or other benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act relating to an individual, and to confirm that such individual is who he or she claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat
  • foreign governments will then be given a 60-day period to provide the requested information regarding their nationals, after which the U.S. government will issue a presidential proclamation prohibiting the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those on diplomatic visas, NATO visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations and those under G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested
  • the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is suspended for 120 days, during which there will be a review of the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the U.S.
  • the Secretary of Homeland Security is to expedite completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the U.S.
  • the Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and require that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to limited statutory exceptions
  • the Secretary of State should review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements for all visa types to ensure that they are reciprocal regarding validity periods, fees and other treatment, and adjustments will be made if a country is determined to not treat U.S. nationals seeking a nonimmigrant visa in a reciprocal manner

What Should Foreign Nationals Do?

For people from the seven countries, it is recommended that you not travel outside the U.S. at this time. If you must travel, have realistic expectations that you may be barred from reentering the U.S. and, if you are allowed entry into the U.S., you should expect to be sent to secondary inspection at the airport upon arrival and for the process to take several or more hours.

Additionally, for foreign nationals with nonimmigrant or immigrant interviews scheduled at a U.S. embassy or consulate, check your appointment status. Most appointments for foreign nationals from the seven countries have been cancelled. If the appointment is not cancelled and you appear, it is unlikely that the consular officer will conduct the interview because all such activities have been suspended.

If you are a national from a country that is not one of the seven countries but you have traveled to one of those countries, you should anticipate being asked about your travels to that country. While there is no current mandate to refuse entry into the U.S. for anyone who has traveled to such a country, it is always possible that the executive order be expanded in some manner. You should be prepared that you may be questioned and be able to explain the purpose of your travels in a calm manner.

It is reported that dual nationals who hold a passport from one of the seven countries as well as a country not on the list are being permitted to enter the U.S. using the passport from the non-seven countries nation as long as the foreign national has a valid visa in the other passport and resides in a country that is not on the list. Such travelers are having to answer questions about their residence and ties to the seven countries, but it seems that many are being admitted into the U.S.

If you plan to apply for a U.S. visa in a country that utilizes the Visa Interview Waiver Program, such as India, be aware that this program has been suspended and all applicants will now be required to appear in person for an interview, unless otherwise required by statute.

Final Takeaways

Expect travel to the United States to take much longer than expected, regardless of your nationality. If you are from one of the seven countries, be aware that you may not be admitted back into the U.S. temporarily. If you are a national of another country but have traveled to one of the seven countries, you should expect to be questioned on the purpose of your travel to the seven countries and should be prepared to explain the travel and substantiate that you are not a risk and should be admitted entry into the U.S. If you expected to take advantage of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, plan accordingly since it is not available at this time.

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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