Update Regarding Executive Order Impacting Persons from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia.

Update as of 2/5/2017

Updates on Executive Order impacting citizens of Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

The situation has been changing and evolving quickly over the past week since the January 27, 2017 Executive Order was signed. Since our last update on January 30, 2017, there have been some important changes regarding how the Executive Order directed at citizens of Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen is being implemented. We have seen guidance from USCIS, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as the U.S. Department of State. Additionally, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order on February 3, 2017. The temporary restraining order prohibits the government, on a nationwide basis, from enforcing the 90-day travel ban, the 120-day ban on the refugee program, and the indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees until there is further order from the court. While this is good news, the current order only puts a temporarystop to implementation of the Executive Order nationwide until further order from the court. The President is now appealing the temporary restraining order in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Below is a description of where things stand for the moment. I want to emphasize that things can change rapidly, so it is important to keep checking with reputable news sources, and if you or your family are directly impacted by this order, it’s best to check with your immigration attorney. It is especially important to check with an immigration attorney before you or your loved ones travel. This applies equally for travel returning to the United States and planning to leave and travel outside the United States. During this time, it is strongly recommended for all who are non-citizens, even those who are not nationals or citizens of one of the seven named countries, to take precautions before travels in or out of the United States at this time.

  • Lawful Permanent Residents (“Green Card Holders,”) Generally: On February 1, 2017 there was a White House memorandum to the acting Secretary of State, the acting Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, stating that sections of the Executive Order don’t apply to Lawful Permanent Residents who are nationals of Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. This means that Lawful Permanent Residents should be able to be admitted to the United States without a waiver.
  • USCIS – Applications to USCIS Inside the U.S.: Initially, the Executive Order resulted in USCIS stating that it would hold off on a final decision for all applications and petitions, except naturalization, involving applicants from one of the seven countries. Now following a February 2, 2017 memo from the Acting Director of USCIS, applications and petitions filed for or on behalf of individuals in the U.S. will not be impacted by the Executive Order, regardless of an individual’s nationality.
  • Customs and Border Protection – Port of Entry to the U.S.: Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently has a Questions and Answers page on their website at the following link: https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states
    • Notably, CBP confirms that dual nationals can enter the United States if they are traveling on a passport from any country other than from one of the seven mentioned in the Executive Order. For example, a dual citizen of Somalia and France will not be banned from entry if traveling with and entering the United States on her French passport.
  • Department of State – Visas Outside the U.S.: 
  • The information currently posted on the Department of State website is as follows: “Urgent Notice: Urgent Notice: Under the Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to nationals of the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen was suspended. An order issued by a U.S. District Court in Washington state on February 3, 2017 bars the U.S. government from enforcing certain provisions of Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” including those related to visas and travel for nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Accordingly, U.S. embassies and consulates will resume scheduling visa appointments for these nationals.”
  • “The Department of State had also, under the Executive Order, provisionally revoked all valid visas of  nationals of those seven countries. That provisional revocation is now lifted, and those visas are now valid for travel to the United States, if the holder is otherwise eligible. Individuals whose visas are expired, or were physically cancelled, must apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, absent a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) decision to grant parole or waive the visa requirement at the port of entry. We are looking further into this issue and will revise this site with any updates.”

 

Update as of 1/30/2017

Shortly after Donald Trump became the new President, he decided to focus on immigration by making heavy use of Executive Orders. The targets include, but are not limited to: the unlawfully present, lawful immigrants from certain Muslim countries, persons with criminal records, those in DACA status, and Sanctuary Cities.

There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty now about what has already happened, and what will happen in the future. The various recent Executive Orders are still being carefully analyzed by attorneys, and there remains conflicting and ever-shifting information about how the various agencies (Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of State (DOS), National Visa Center (NVC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are going to interpret and implement these Executive Orders. We would like to provide you with information that we know about right now.

The Executive Order that we believe impacts you and your loved ones essentially temporarily bans the issuance of visas and the entry into the country of those possessing valid visas for citizens of the following seven countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. This ban includes refugees. It is unclear how the ban effect someone who holds dual citizenship and was, for example, born in Somalia and is also a Swedish citizen. The draft Order states that the ban is for 90 days while the impact on public safety is assessed.

Though an announcement has not yet been made public, credible sources have let us know that as of today, January 30, 2017, almost all case processing, other than naturalization, for beneficiaries/petitioners/applicants from one of the 7 named countries has been put on hold. This applies to applications, petitions and renewals pending before USCIS and the Visa Center, in addition to visas and visa interviews at U.S. consulates. If your family member has the visa, but has not traveled, they may not be allowed to board the plane or may not be admitted into the U.S. We do not know how long this hold will last. If this applies to you or your loved ones, the only options currently available are to explore challenging the hold/ban in court by filing a lawsuit, or waiting to see if this Executive Order can be effectively struck down by the courts, or by Congress.

 

Below, please find important information as applied to different circumstances:

If you are a refugee, derivative asylee, or someone with another Non-Immigrant Visa (B-2s, F-1s, H1-Bs, K-1s, J, etc.) from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan:

  1. If you are already in the U.S., do not leave the U.S.
  2. If you are outside the U.S. and planning to try to enter, ask your family members inside the U.S. to contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your situation before you come to the U.S.
  3. If you are in transit, soon arriving at a U.S. Port of Entry and have not been advised by an attorney:
    • Remember that you do not have a legal right to counsel inside of the airport, but you absolutely should demand to see a lawyer or immigration judge.
    • If you do not speak English fluently, ask for an interpreter, and do not use a friend, or fellow passenger. If and when you are provided an interpreter, make sure that you understand the interpreter, and the interpreter clearly understands you.
    • Remain calm, even though surely you will be tired after a long flight.
    • Ask for medical attention if you need it. Please bring with your documents confirming medical problems you have, significant medical attention you’ve received and prescriptions.
    • If you are afraid to return to your home country for any reason, insist that you want an officer or judge to hear your case and tell them clearly that you are seeking asylum in the United States because you fear harm. To qualify for asylum in the United States, an asylum seeker must fear harm because of on one of the following reasons: (1) race, (2) religion, (3) nationality, (4) membership in a particular social group, or (5) political opinion (either your actual opinion, or an opinion someone believes that you hold).
    • We have learned from recent entrants that the CBP officers may ask you many uncomfortable questions to make sure you do not support terrorism or an establishment of a sharia government in the U.S. They may also want to know if you have traveled to your home country after being granted asylum or refugee status.
    • We have heard reports from recent arriving passengers that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may download information from cell phones and computers, look at social media accounts, and search your personal items. Expect long delays.
  4. If you are in the U.S. and have a pending application, other than naturalization, and the beneficiary/petitioner/applicant is from one of the 7 named countries, as of today’s date January 30, 2017, we understand that USCIS, the NVC and U.S. consulates will put the case on hold. Please consult with an immigration attorney if you are facing a deadline for an extension, for example.

 

If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card” holder) from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan:

  1. If you are already in the U.S., for the time being, do not leave.
  2. If you are outside the U.S. and planning to try to enter, contact your attorney before If you do not currently have an attorney, ask your family members or friends inside the U.S. to contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your situation before you come to the U.S.
  3. If you are outside the country, as of today’s date, you should be admitted based on the current interpretation of the Executive Order.
    • Expect a long delay, and based on reports from recent entrants, you might be asked many questions, including about your beliefs, what you were doing on your travels, etc.
    • I recommend that you print out and bring the following with you, but keep in mind the situation may be changing from moment to moment, and you should double check with your lawyer before traveling. https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/statement-secretary-john-kelly-entry-lawful-permanent-residents-united-states
    • CBP will likely check to see if you were absent for more than 6 months in order to ask questions to abandon They will ask questions to make sure you have not abandoned your U.S. Permanent residency.
    • We have learned from recent entrants that the CBP officers may ask you many uncomfortable questions to make sure you do not support terrorism or an establishment of a sharia government in the U.S. They may also want to know if you have traveled to your home country after being granted asylum or refugee status.
    • We have heard reports from recent arriving passengers that CBP may download information from cell phones and computers, look at social media accounts, and search your personal items. Expect long delays.
    • We have also heard reports from recent arriving passengers that CBP may check your Facebook and other social media to make sure you do not pose a threat.  You must have proof such as bill, lease, or home ownership, that you live permanently in the U.S.
  4. IMPORTANT: We have heard reports of CBP aggressively insisting residents give up their green card by signing a form I-407.  Do not sign this form, even if they make statements to the effect that it will make things easier for you in the long run. You have a right to see an immigration judge and be represented by a lawyer to defend you and help you fight to keep your U.S. permanent residency. You should insist that you would like to consult with an attorney and that you will fight to keep your residency.