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[UPDATED] - WARNING: President Trump Issues Travel Ban for Nationals of Seven Designated Muslim Countries

by Dinh Tran, Partner, Queen City Immigration Law. 704-500-2075

On January 27, 2017, just one week after being sworn in to his office, President Trump signed an Executive Order titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States." Among other provisions, Section 3 of the Executive Order, "suspends" the entry of immigrant and nonimmigrant nationals from certain designated countries for 90 days from the date of the order. The number of those designated countries is currently at seven and include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

However, the order does not define what it means to be "from" a designated country. Interpreted broadly, this could mean individuals who hold passports issued by those seven countries, or are citizens, nationals, or dual nationals of those countries.

The Executive Order has immediate effect and can have serious consequences for individuals from the seven banned countries if they travel outside of the United States, potentially even people who hold lawful permanent status, or green cards. If you are currently on a nonimmigrant status, such as H-1B or L-1, and are from the seven banned countries, you should not leave the United States. Numerous nonimmigrants from the designated countries have already been detained at various ports of entry, refused admission to the United States, and put on return flights. Refugees from the designated countries are also barred from entering the U.S and there is reportedly a hold on refugee travel for people from the designated countries. However, refugees traveling to the U.S. from countries other than the designated countries may be allowed to enter.

If you are a lawful permanent resident, you should also carefully consider travelling outside the United States. Although LPRs who return to the United States after a brief travel abroad are treated differently from other applicants for admission, such as nonimmigrants and immigrant visa-holders, they might still be detained upon return for questioning and review. An LPR who must travel abroad for an urgent reason, such as a sick family member, should be prepared to present detailed and persuasive evidence of the purpose of their trip.

The "suspension" has been set for 90 days. After the 90 days, the Department of Homeland Security is required to report whether countries have provided information "needed … for the adjudication of any … benefit under the INA … to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat." If not, the country would have 60 days to comply, or the travel ban would become indefinite.

This article is not legal advice. If you are a citizen or national of the seven designated countries and planning to travel internationally, please seek legal advice of an immigration attorney.

UPDATE: February 1, 2017 - On Wednesday, February 1, 2017, the White House issued a memorandum to the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security clarifying the implementation of the President's Executive Order with respect to LPRs. The memorandum, written by Donald McGahn II, counsel to the President, makes it clear to the three departments that the provisions of the Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” does not apply to lawful permanent residents. 

UPDATE: January 29, 2017 - On Sunday, January 29, 2017, the Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, issued a press release statement clarifying the application of the Executive Order to lawful permanent residents of the designated countries. The Secretary declared the entry of LPRs to be in the national interest. All persons from the seven designated countries who are green card holders will be allowed to re-enter the United States after a trip abroad unless there is "significant derogatory information indicating [such person to pose] a serious threat to public safety and welfare."

UPDATE: January 28, 2017 - On Saturday, January 28, 2017, several United States district court judges, including in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington state have issued rulings granting temporary protective orders and enjoining the Trump administration from carrying out certain provisions of the President's Executive Order. The court orders have stayed the removals of lawful permanent residents, refugees, and holders of nonimmigrant visas who have been detained at various airports upon their arrival to the United States on Friday and Saturday pending the adjudication of the merits of the underlying lawsuits against the Executive Order.