In the Know

Border Closes for Many – Visa Processing to Slow for All
January 30, 2017
Alerts
Arnall Golden Gregory LLP

Impact: People from IRAN, IRAQ, SYRIA, SUDAN, SOMALIA, YEMEN, and LIBYA (“seven countries”)

Citizens of these seven countries may not be able to travel to or return to the U.S. – even with visas:

What the Executive Order provides that has immediate impact:

  • “I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.”
  • “The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days.” (Syrian refugee admissions are suspended “indefinitely.”
  • “The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program.”

    • The Visa Interview Waiver Program allows US Consuls to issue visas without in person interviews to certain applicants who have already been previously interviewed and issued a visa in the same category. It is not the same as the “visa waiver program” or ESTA which allows travel to the U.S. without a visa for some nationals of certain countries.
  • Additional countries may be added to the “seven” within the next 60 days.
  • Other “immigration benefits” may be suspended shortly.

What this means for you:

  • If you have a “green card” and are from one of the seven countries, you may consider:

    • Reconsider any planned travel outside the US until the position of the administration on your reentry is clarified or changed. The Executive Order by its terms applies to “immigrants,” however the President’s Chief of Staff and Press Secretary offered clarification during interviews on Sunday January 29th that it would not apply to green card holders.
    • If you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, do not delay. Granting of citizenship benefits and other immigration benefits may be suspended.
    • If you are outside the U.S. consult with counsel before returning.

  • If you are living/working in the U.S. in a nonimmigrant status, consider delaying any travel outside the U.S. indefinitely.
  • If you are from one of the seven countries and are outside the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa, anticipate that you may not be allowed to board a flight back to the U.S. and may be turned away at the border if you are able to do so.
  • If you have employees who carry passports from any of these countries, advise against leaving the U.S. at this time even for urgent business or personal needs.
  • If you have a “green card” and are not from one of the seven countries, consider applying for U.S. citizenship as soon as you eligible – especially if you are from a country which is majority Muslim.
  • Plan on delays in visa issuance, no matter what country you are from. Wait periods for visas appointments is now a matter of days. With the termination of the visa interview waiver program, wait times will dramatically increase.

What we know now:

  • Refugees with visas arriving at U.S. airports have been detained and so far denied entry.
  • Citizens from the seven countries who have valid visas have been denied boarding at international airports
  • We have heard of lawful permanent residents from the seven countries being sent to secondary inspection for additional scrutiny and inspection. We know of some who have then been admitted to the U.S.
  • The Port Director, Customs and Boarder Protection Chicago O’Hare has indicated:

    • No nonimmigrants or first time immigrants from the seven countries are being allowed into the U.S. (with or without visas)
    • Refugees from other countries with valid documents are being admitted as usual.
    • Lawful permanent residents from the seven countries are subjected to an enhanced “secondary inspection” and are possibly being admitted.
    • Refugees from the seven countries are also subject to enhanced “secondary inspection” and are possibly being admitted.

      NONE OF THIS SHOULD BE TAKEN AS POLICY AND ALL IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS TO PORTS OF ENTRY WILL UNDOUBTELY BE GIVEN BY THE ADMINISTRATION.

    • The Department of Homeland Security has indicated the ban applies to dual nationals, but they may be admitted to the U.S. “on a case by case basis.”

Action Plan

  • Identify all employees, employees, partners and other who may be impacted and advise them.
  • If you are so inclined contact your elected officials.
  • If critical matters arise, we intend to post updates.
Downloads: