President Trump signed an Executive Order today, which has replaced the January 27, 2017 travel ban for citizens of certain countries and limitations on refugees. The revised Executive Order will take effect March 16, 2017 and will temporarily suspend visa issuance to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. The Executive Order now also contains the following revisions:
- All visas that are currently valid (even if from one of the 6 countries) will remain valid.
- U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (“Green Card” holders) are exempt from the order.
- A foreign national’s nationality will be determined based on the passport they present while traveling, which means dual nationals from one of the six countries should be admitted if they can present a passport from a country not covered by the order.
- Iraq nationals are removed from the list of countries subject to the temporary ban.
- The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program will be suspended for 120 days.
- The new Executive Order does not give priority to religious minorities and does not specifically target Syrian refugees.
- The Department of Homeland Security may grant waivers on a case-by-case basis if the foreign national can prove his/her entry is in the national interest of the United States, does not pose a threat to national security and that denying entry would cause undue hardship. If the waiver is approved for visa issuance, it would remain in effect for the validity of the visa.
Once again, as a result of these actions, many in the immigrant community are confused and scared – I understand! Despite all that you read or hear in the news or from your friends and family, this is not a time to panic or to make hasty decisions. It is a time for calm, rational thinking and for informed, conservative and proactive planning. In that regard, I suggest the following:
- If you are a citizen of one of the “six countries” listed on the Executive Order, do not travel out of the U.S. The Executive Order does not apply to you if you merely visited one of the “six countries”.
- If you are a citizen of any other country which has a predominantly Muslim population, do not travel out of the U.S. without consulting with an Immigration Attorney first.
- If you have a non-immigrant visa (even if you are a citizen of a country which is not predominantly Muslim) and you plan to travel out of the U.S. please consult with an Immigration Attorney first. In this climate of enhanced enforcement it is prudent to be able to document your status as much as possible in the event you are subject to additional scrutiny by an overly aggressive immigration officer upon your return.
- Consideration should be given to accelerating any immigration planning (eg; extensions of status, green card processing, etc.) in order to take advantage of the existing laws and regulations. It is possible that these may become more restrictive as the policies of the current administration continue to evolve.
It is my belief that more executive orders will be forthcoming - which are likely to add to the fear and uncertainty that many may be feeling. I sympathize with what you may be feeling right now - I come from a family of immigrants. It pains me that the country whose doors gave my family refuge in their time of need is now trying to close those same doors to others. I believe that these times too shall pass and that better times lie ahead. Until then I will do everything I can to ease your fears and help you through this difficult period.