The Executive Order relating to refugees and individuals from Muslim-majority countries was signed on Friday afternoon. While there are still many unanswered questions (and more raised every hour), some of the major points are as follows:
- Effective upon the signing of the Order, entry to the U.S. by most immigrants and nonimmigrants from the seven targeted countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) has been suspended for a minimum of 90 days. The Order does not apply to U.S. citizens, but it does include Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, green card holders) from the seven countries. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that allowing LPRs to return to the U.S. is, generally, in the national interest of the country and they will be evaluated for entry on a case-by-case. There are still mixed reports of how LPRs are actually being treated at individual airports.
- The Order includes individuals from the seven countries who also hold dual nationality with another country (for example, Iraqi with Canadian citizenship). However, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP): “[T]ravelers are being treated according to the travel document they present. For example, if they present a Canadian passport, that is how they are processed for entry.”
- The Order does not define what it means to be “from” a country. If an individual is already in the U.S. and is “from” one of the above countries (including, for example, Palestinians from Syria), the best option is to consult with an immigration attorney before traveling outside of the U.S. However, again, according to CBP: “Travelers are being treated according to the travel document they present.”
- It seems that the Order is also being applied to some applications and petitions filed by individuals from the seven targeted countries which are pending in the U.S., as well as most cases pending in embassies and consulates abroad. The Department of State has stated that all valid immigrant and nonimmigrant visas issued to individuals from the seven countries have been “provisionally” revoked, although some may not be, on a case-by-case basis. According to CBP, naturalization applications and oath ceremonies will not be affected.
- Within 30 days of the Order, the DHS will create a list of countries which “do not provide accurate information” for proper vetting of its nationals to the U.S., and the Department of State (DOS) will request that those countries begin to do so within 60 days of notification. At the end of the 60 days, if those countries do not comply, it is likely that most of their nationals will be prohibited from entering the U.S., maybe permanently.
- Some individuals from these countries may still be allowed into the U.S., or obtain immigration benefits, during these periods, on a case-by-case basis.
- Multiple federal agencies will implement a program increasing security checks and a values test for individuals seeking U.S. immigration benefits (including an evaluation of the individual’s “likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society” and “ability to make contributions to the national interest” of the U.S.).
- Refugees from Syria will no longer be allowed into the U.S. until further notice, on the basis that their entry “is detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
- In addition, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) will be suspended for 120 days while the U.S. examines how to increase its already extreme vetting procedures. This means refugees from any country, and includes individuals who have already been approved for refugee resettlement in the U.S. Once the program resumes, refugees will only be allowed into the U.S. if multiple federal agencies have decided that extreme vetting has been sufficient.
- Once the USRAP program resumes, priority will be given to individuals seeking refugee status on the basis of religious-based persecution, if they are a member of a minority religion in their country.
- During the 120 temporary suspension, individual refugees may still be allowed in the U.S. on a case-by-case basis. In addition, individuals seeking refugee status based on minority religion-based persecution may still continue to be processed.
- The Visa Waiver Interview Program (IWP), which allowed some individuals to renew their visas without an interview, is suspended. This means that anyone applying for a nonimmigrant visa must attend an in-person interview.
- Lawsuits challenging the Executive Order, and how it is being implemented, have been filed all over the U.S., and the situation is changing day by day, hour by hour. The above information may change tomorrow, so individuals should consult with an experienced immigration attorney before making any decisions which may affect their legal status.
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.