Monday, January 30, 2017

Travel Alert - 1/30/2017

By Angela Lopez

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO), "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." The Department of State (DOS) released the following notice: "Visa issuance to nationals of the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification. We will announce any other changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time. If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND. You will not be permitted entry to the Embassy/Consulate. We will announce any other changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available."

Following the EO, a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York issued an order granting a nationwide stay of removal preventing deportation for individuals with valid visas and approved refugee applications. In addition, a federal court in Massachusetts barred federal officials from detaining or removing individuals subject to the EO. Other federal courts including a federal court in Washington State barred the federal government from deporting from the United States.

In summary, the EO provides the following:

  • Suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During this period, a review will be conducted to determine and change the adjudications procedure. Refugee applicants already in the process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of the revised procedures. Refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution (if the religion is a minority religion in the country of nationality) will be made a priority once USRAP is continued;

  • Suspension of Syrian refugees until further determination;

  • Suspension of refugee entry until admissions are permissible, such numbers shall not exceed 50,000 per fiscal year; and

  • Suspension of the visa interview waiver program for anyone seeking a nonimmigrant visa.

  • Blocks admission to the United States at least for 90 days of nonimmigrant visa holders -- such as H-1Bs, L-1s, and green card holders.  To this effect, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, released a statement clarifying how the EO applies to LPRs: "I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest."

The EO permits the admission of refugees 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.  A report must be submitted by the Secretary of State on claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the Order, and a second report within 200 days of the Order. The Order also includes a provision to assist state and local jurisdictions with their involvement in the resettlement process.

In an attempt to clarify the EO provisions, the Department of Homeland Security released further information on January 29, 2017 outlining how they intend to implement this order.  For the full text, click here.

In the meantime, and until we have more clarity, we strongly advise citizens of the countries listed on the EO to refrain from international travel.  In other words, if you are in the U.S., do not leave.  If you are outside the U.S., consult with us or your attorney before trying to return.

This information is not legal advice.  You should consult with us or your attorney to make decisions based on your individual circumstances.  There are many issues related to this EO, and we will keep you updated as the information becomes available.

Angela M. Lopez
Immigration Law Section
Cowles & Thompson, PC.

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