DHS clarifications regarding Executive Order banning U.S. entries by citizens of seven countries

News Release from Jewell Stewart & Pratt – February 1, 2017 As discussed in our post of January 30, 2017, an Executive Order signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017 bans immigrant and nonimmigrant entries into the United States, for at least 90 days, by nationals of seven countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Other countries may be added to the list and adjudications of other immigration benefits could be affected. (The Executive Order is also targeted at refugee admissions, with longer bans; however, our posts are currently focused on immigrant and nonimmigrant visa provisions.)

In the days following the Executive Order, its ambiguous language and the inconsistent application of its provisions at U.S. ports of entry and in other parts of the U.S. government created confusion among foreign-born travelers to the United States. Much remains to be resolved through litigation and legislation, but in the meantime, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has provided some clarifications. In a Q&A posted by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) on 1/31/2017, CBP made the following clarifications:

  • Lawful Permanent Residents: Individuals from the listed countries who are U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs, or green card-holders) will be exempted from the bar on entry “in the national interest,” unless CBP finds “significant derogatory information” indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare. Green card holders intending to travel to the United States must apply for a waiver of the bar. So far, a majority of such waiver applications have been granted; however, the term “significant derogatory information” has not been defined.
  • Dual Nationality: The Executive Order refers to individuals “from” the seven countries, leaving open the question whether dual citizens of one of these countries and any other country outside the United States would be subject to the bars on entry. CBP has now clarified that “Travelers are being treated according to the travel document they present.” Therefore, for example, a dual citizen of Iran and Canada who presents a Canadian passport should be treated as a Canadian applicant for admission. Note that this is not apparent from the Executive Order itself; it is CBP’s policy statement and may be subject to change.
  • Visas Immediately Revoked: Upon issuance of the Executive Order, all immigrant and nonimmigrant visas issued to citizens of the seven countries were revoked. Individuals physically in the United States and maintaining legal status did not lose their status as a result of the order, but any visa that would have permitted them to return to the United States from travel abroad ceased to be valid. Visa-holders outside the United States who attempt to return will not be permitted to do so at this time if they are citizens of one of the seven countries. With regard to international students, interns and trainees on F-1, J-1, and M-1 visas that are canceled, suspended or revoked because of the Executive Order, CBP has stated that DHS is evaluating whether those who are precluded from returning to the United States “will be considered to have maintained their status as F1 or M1 students.” The meaning of this is not clear, but it suggests that students unable to maintain the required full-time course of study due to their inability to enter the United States, should they eventually be admitted to the United States to resume their studies, might not be required to apply for “reinstatement” to valid status as they otherwise would be required to do.
  • Naturalization Applications: The Executive Order has prompted many longtime U.S. permanent residents to finally take the step of applying to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Despite rumors of a freeze on USCIS processing of naturalization applications and other visa- and immigration-related applications, the government has stated that “USCIS will continue to adjudicate N-400 applications for naturalization and administer the oath of citizenship consistent with prior practices.” Naturalization applicants from certain countries, including the seven countries named in the Executive Order, have historically been more likely to experience longer delays and extra scrutiny in the naturalization process, and this is not expected to change.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2017