On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed a new immigration-related Executive Order. This anticipated Executive Order comes on the heels of his controversial January 27, 2017 Executive Order which temporarily suspended the refugee program and temporarily banned individuals from seven countries from entering the United States. The earlier Executive Order was halted in part by a Ninth Circuit Court Order, and met with widespread protests nationwide. The March 6th Executive Order repeals the January 27th Order in its entirety, and will take effect starting March 16, 2017.
The March 6th, Executive Order opened with an approximately two-page clarification of the earlier Executive Order. In response to popular outcry against the January Order and judicial disapproval of alleged religious discrimination, this Executive Order addressed the idea of a “Muslim Ban,” explaining that the earlier Order “did not provide for a basis for discrimination for or against members of any particular religion.” It further set forth the Administration’s policy objectives surrounding national security and cited a 2016 Department of State report justifying a temporary ban for individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on the basis of national security.
With this backdrop, the March 6th Executive Order’s key points are as follows:
- 90-day ban on individuals from six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Iraq was left off the list this time. The Administration reasoned that a ban on Iraqis is unnecessary given the “close cooperative relationship between the United States and the . . . Iraqi government . . . .” While Iraq is not subject to the 90-day ban, Section 4 of the Order calls for a “rigorous evaluation” of applications by Iraqi nationals. The remaining countries present an “unacceptably high” threat.
- The Executive Order only applies to foreign nationals of the designated countries who:
(a) are outside the United States on March 16, 2017;
(b) did not have a valid visa at 5:00 P.M., eastern standard time on January 27, 2017; and
(c) do not have a valid visa on March 16, 2017.
- There are several notable carve-outs narrowing the Executive Order’s scope. The Executive Order does not apply to: Green Card holders, dual nationals when traveling on a passport issued by a non-designated country, foreign nationals who have been granted asylum and certain others who hold select visas.
- Immigration officials are permitted to make case-by-case determinations to issue visas or permit the entry of foreign nationals for whom entry is otherwise suspended. The foreign national must demonstrate “undue hardship” and that the foreign national’s presence would not pose a threat to national security. The Order outlines instances in which such a waiver may be appropriate, including when the foreign national:
(a) has been previously admitted for work, study or other long-term activity, and seeks to re-enter the United States to resume this activity;
(b) seeks to enter for significant business or professional obligations;
(c) seeks to visit a close family member who is lawfully in the United States; or
(d) seeks urgent medical care or has a special circumstance.
- The United States Refugee Assistance Program (USRAP) is temporarily suspended for 120 days, and the 2017 refugee numerical cap is set at 50,000 refugees. However, the suspension does not apply to those who have been formally scheduled for transit by the Department of State.
- The Visa Interview Waiver Program is suspended, meaning that in most instances, a non-immigrant visa applicant will have to undergo an in-person interview.
- Several other provisions from the January Executive Order remain in place including the visa reciprocity review and the data collection directives in Section 10 and 11 of the new Order, respectively.
The Executive Order is clear that any immigrant or non-immigrant visa issued before March 16, 2017 shall not be revoked pursuant to the new Order. While this Executive Order is far more specific than the January Order, the implementation by the various agencies will be worth watching to understand its practical impact. Travelers are well-advised to ensure that all immigration-related documentation is in order, account for delays when traveling to and from one of the six listed countries, and maintain a contingency plan in case of unforeseen events in transit.
Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd will continue to monitor further developments in this dynamic immigration climate.