President Trump Issues Executive Order Suspending Refugee Admissions and Entry of Green Card/Visa Holders From Particular Countries
President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO), entitled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Entry into the United States, which went into immediate effect upon signing on Friday, January 27, 2017. The EO bars the admission of immigrants and non-immigrants from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) for at least 90 days, suspends the U.S. Refugee Admission Program for at least 120 days, and indefinitely suspends the entry of Syrian refugees.
Suspension of Visa Issuance
As previously discussed, the EO suspends the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants who are nationals from certain countries for 90 days. These countries include Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. However, the 90-day entry ban excludes foreign nationals traveling to the United States on diplomatic visas, NATO visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, and G-4 visas.
The EO further instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to submit a report to President Trump, within 30 days of the EO, regarding the adequacy of information collected during the visa adjudication process for the purpose of verifying the applicant’s identity. The report shall also include a list of countries not supplying adequate information. After the first 30 days, foreign governments who have not yet provided sufficient information will be given 60 days’ notice to do so. A country’s failure to comply with the request will result in foreign nationals from said country being prohibited entry to the U.S. However, visas may continue to be issued on a case-by-case basis, when in the national interest, to foreign nationals even if their country is listed.
The EO appears to include both individuals born in affected countries and individuals who hold dual nationality with one of those countries. Although dual nationals who present a passport from a non-banned country should not be denied entry, application of the EO across airports in the U.S. have been inconsistent.
With regards to lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”), the Department of Homeland Security has issued a statement asserting that the ban applies to LPRs, but that they would qualify for an exception due to national interest. LPRS from affected countries are consequently not barred from entry unless the U.S. government deems that they pose a national security threat. However, LPRs may still be subject to lengthy questionings and heightened entry procedures at U.S. ports of entry.
Implementing New Standards for Screening
The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the FBI are tasked with implementing a uniform screening standard and procedure to identify individuals seeking to enter the U.S. on a fraudulent basis, with the intent to harm, or who are at risk of causing harm. The new screening program will include the following:
- A database of identity documents to ensure that duplicate documents are not produced by multiple applicants;
- Application forms with amended questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent;
- A mechanism to ensure the identity of the applicant;
- A process to evaluate whether the applicant will be a positively contributing member of society; and
- A mechanism to ascertain whether the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after admission.
Suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program
President Trump is suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days while a review and modification of the refugee screening process takes place. After said 120 days, USRAP admissions will resume only for countries with sufficient safeguards against threats to the safety and welfare of the U.S. The Secretaries of Homeland Security and State may admit individuals on a case-by-case basis, if it is in the national interest, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship. Refugee claims made by individuals based on religious persecution (if the religion is a minority religion in the country of nationality) are deemed to be of national interest and will receive priority once USRAP is continued. Once admissions are permissible, the number of admissions shall not exceed 50,000 in fiscal year 2017.
Entry of Syrian refugees is suspended until President Trump determines that sufficient changes have been made to USRAP.
The EO includes additional provisions related to the entry of foreign nations into the U.S., including the following:
- All travelers to the U.S. will be required to provide biometric data upon entry and exit from the U.S. (as opposed to current entry-only requirements). Three reports shall be submitted within the first year of the EO, and a report shall be submitted every 180 days until the system is completed and operational;
- The Visa Interview Waiver Program shall be immediately suspended, and all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas will be required to undergo in-person interviews;
- The Secretary of State shall review all non-immigrant visa reciprocity agreements;
- Data regarding the number of foreign-born individuals in the U.S. who have been charged, convicted, or removed from the U.S. based on terrorism-related activities or gender-based acts of violence will be collected and made publicly available every 180 days.