UPDATED January 30, 2017. Changes in italics
The situation is changing hourly, so please check back frequently as we update this alert.
What countries are affected by the ban?
The countries involved are: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Executive Order (EO) refers to "aliens", "foreign nationals" and "nationals", so the language is inconsistent. It may include dual nationals.
The EO also allows states that "the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation." This means that the ban could extend beyond the 7 named countries, and is clearly aimed at people from Muslim countries.
What type of immigrants are affected by the ban?
The ban applies to anyone entering the US who meets the nationality requirements described above. It applies to refugees, asylum seekers, visitors, nonimmigrant visa holders and even permanent residents (green card holders). The ban excludes some diplomatic visas.
I thought green card holders were OK?
UPDATE 2/2/17: the White House announced that permanent residents were excluded from the ban. We don't know if immigration officers at the airport are following this guidance yet.
1/28/17: The EO applies to "immigrants", i.e. permanent residents (LPRs). However, after massive protests and complaints about this aspect of the ban, DHS issued a statement stating that LPRs could be allowed into the US. The statement did not remove the "immigrant" language from the ban, but stated that "...absent significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations." In other words, LPRs may be admitted if the admitting officer at the airport feels that they are not a threat.
How long does the ban last?
The ban lasts for 90 days, starting from yesterday, January 27, 2017.
I am from one of those countries - can I travel outside the US?
We strongly recommend that you do not travel outside the US until further notice.
I have an application pending with USCIS. Will that be affected?
Unfortunately, pending applications will probably be placed on hold. The EO section that refers to the ban states that it "...suspend[s] entry into the United States...." (emphasis added). However, other sections refer to "...other benefit.." This could include nonimmigrant visa extensions, citizenship applications, etc. We are hearing rumors that some immigration officers have been told to stop working on applications involving nationals of the 7 countries (1/30/17)
Are there any exceptions to the ban?
The EO provides that the "Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits.." This waiver was applied to one of the first people affected by the ban, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/2-iraqis-file-lawsuit-after-being-detained-in-ny-due-to-travel-ban/index.html.
This is much more in the EO, referring to the suspension of refugee admissions for 120 days, suspension of the visa waiver interview program, etc. These will be covered in another blog posting in the next few days.
If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Elaine Martin, immigration lawyer.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.