Immigration news - Executive Order impacting travel to the USA

On Friday 27 January President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order suspending travel into the US for nationals of seven countries with immediate effect. The countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. During the course of the week that followed, the ban caused serious disruption for nationals of those countries who were travelling to the US or applying for visas. The ban also impacted dual nationals as well as green card holders.

Lawyers across the states immediately began to challenge the ban through the federal courts and on Friday 3 February, a federal Judge in Seattle issued a country wide restraining order which temporarily suspended the ban on the basis that it was unlawfully discriminatory and had caused unreasonable harm.

The legal battle continued in the US ninth circuit court of appeals, where a panel of three judges listened to arguments from both sides. Late on Thursday 9 February, the appellate court ruled against President Trump. If President Trump decides to concede, this could be the end of the matter, however the consensus is that this is unlikely. It is now expected the matter will ultimately end up in the Supreme Court as the President has declared the appellate court decision ‘a disgrace’.

In the meantime, the situation is far from satisfactory for nationals of these countries wishing to travel to and from the US or indeed to make visa applications. Whilst technically travel should have been possible again since Friday 3 February and still is at the time of writing, there have still been reports of airlines refusing to carry affected passengers amidst the confusion.

During the period the ban was in place, the US Embassy in London was advising against nationals from these countries submitting applications, but that advice is no longer present on the Embassy website which suggests, at least for the time being, they are accepting applications. Ultimately, however, behind all of this is the intention to introduce new screening standards as part of the visa application process – President Trump’s so-called ‘extreme vetting’. It is therefore difficult to say how quickly or easily such applications will progress.

Since the situation is changing so quickly, our practical advice to travellers and visa applicants who are nationals of the affected countries, is to seek advice before travelling or attempting to submit a visa application.

We also advise all travellers to the US, regardless of nationality, that they should expect additional delays upon entry due to increased scrutiny generally.

For any immediate advice or concerns regarding ability to travel, please contact Alison Hutton.