President Trump signed an Executive Order on January 27, 2017 called “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The most publicized portion of the Executive Order is the portion banning virtually all refugees for the next 120 days; however, there are other provisions in the Order that may affect many foreign national employees with respect to international travel.
The order, on its face, bans the entry of both temporary and permanent immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (“the Seven Countries”). The Department of State has issued a statement confirming that they will suspend issuing visas to nationals from the Seven Countries. Also, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that, absent evidence of “derogatory information,” (and they have not defined that term) lawful permanent residents will be allowed to enter the U.S.
Additionally, the Executive Order contains a provision that immediately ends the “visa interview waiver programs” being used at Embassies and Consulates abroad. The visa renewal program utilized by employment based nonimmigrants is called “Drop-Box.” This option allowed many employees to avoid interviews if they were merely renewing a visa and had already been vetted.
Any employees currently outside the country, or scheduling international travel, who are planning to rely on the “Drop-Box” program may face delays and a wait for an interview before they can return to the U.S. It is uncertain at this time how this portion of the executive order will be implemented or what delays might be involved.
Foreign nationals should be aware that traveling at this time entails a high risk of delay. Obviously, each individual situation may vary, but we recommend employees discuss the situation with their employers (and with an immigration attorney) prior to planning international travel. At this time, we would not recommend international travel for most individuals from the Seven Countries. As of today, it is unclear as to how holders of two passports, one of which is from one of the Seven Countries, will be treated.
Finally, we have learned that Department of Homeland Security has informed its various offices that they should stop processing all form I-485 (adjustment of status to permanent residency) and I-130 (petition for alien relative) related to applicants from the Seven Countries effective immediately.
We will keep you updated as to the latest information that might affect your foreign national employees.