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Summary of Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals

Posted in Executive Order, Screening Procedures, Visa Issuance

As we previously reported, President Donald Trump signed a third Executive Order (EO) related to immigration on Jan. 27, 2017.  The stated purpose of this EO is to protect the United States from terrorism stemming from foreign nationals of other countries by limiting entry and visas to certain individuals, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” In practice, it will block admission to the United States for at least 90 days for nationals of seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) who hold nonimmigrant visas, such as H-1Bs and L-1s, and green card holders.

Suspension of Visa Issuance

The text of this EO calls for the suspension of issuance of visas to nationals of certain countries where concerns of terrorism arise. The Secretary of Homeland Security, consulting with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, is tasked with the duty to submit a report to President Trump, in 30 days, regarding the review of information necessary for visa adjudications to verify individual identity and a list of countries that are of concern.

To alleviate the burden of investigation by the agencies, and to ensure that review is thoroughly completed with the resources needed, President Trump proclaims in the Executive Order that any immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States shall be suspended for 90 days by persons who are nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This 90 day entry ban excludes those traveling to the United States on diplomatic visas, NATO visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, and G-4 visas, but includes those entering the United States on L-1, H-1B, and most work visas.

The definition of “national” typically refers to a person born in that country, who may or may not be a citizen of the country. In some cases, it can also refer to the children of such individuals born in other countries to parents who in turn were born in one of the listed countries.  Because of the broad way in which the Order appears to reference “nationals,” in the process of enforcement of the Order, it has been interpreted to include all those fitting the definitions outlined above.

Once the report is received by the Secretary of State regarding the information needed to continue adjudication of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, information shall be requested of all foreign governments that have not supplied such information within 60 days of notification. After the 60 day period has ended, the Secretary of Homeland Security, consulting the Secretary of State, is required to submit to President Trump a list of countries recommended to be put on a list that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals from the countries that do not supply the required information. The list of countries would exclude its nationals who travel for the same categories as mentioned above. The Executive Order includes language that gives the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State the discretion to add additional countries to this list for President Trump’s review. In addition, visas may also be issued on a case-by-case basis to nationals even if their countries are on the list. Four reports, each submitted within 30 days of the Order to President Trump, are required to document the progress.

Implementing New Standards for Screening Those Seeking Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visas

The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the FBI are tasked with implanting a program that will develop and change the uniform screening standard and procedure at the U.S. consulate, including the following:

  • Establishing a database of identity documents to ensure they are not used by multiple applicants;
  • Application forms with amended questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent;
  • Questions to evaluate whether the applicant will be a positively contributing member of society;
  • Process to assess whether the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts in the United States.

Suspensions for the Fiscal Year 2017

President Trump, through this Executive Order, is temporarily suspending the following until further review and notice:

  • Suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During this period, a review will be conducted to determine and change the adjudications procedure. Refugee applicants already in the process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of the revised procedures. Refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution (if the religion is a minority religion in the country of nationality) will be made a priority once USRAP is continued;
  • Suspension of Syrian refugees until further determination;
  • Suspension of refugee entry until admissions are permissible, and at that time, such numbers shall not exceed 50,000 per fiscal year; and
  • Suspension of the visa interview waiver program for anyone seeking a nonimmigrant visa.

The Executive Order includes a provision that would allow the admission of refugees on a case-by-case basis, if it is in the national interest, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship. A report must be submitted by the Secretary of State on claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the Order, and a second report within 200 days of the Order. The Order also includes a provision to assist state and local jurisdictions with their involvement in the resettlement process.

Other Provisions

The Executive Order includes other provisions related to the entry of foreign nationals into the United States. These include the following:

  • Expedited completion of the biometric entry-exit tracking system. Three reports shall be submitted within the first year of the Order, and a report shall be submitted every 180 days until the system is completed and operational;
  • Review and Change of Visa Validity Reciprocity.  The Secretary of State is required to review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements, including all categories, duration of time, and fees. If the foreign country does not treat the U.S. national in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State will adjust the conditions to match;
  • Reports for Transparency. The Secretary of Homeland Security will publish a report for public viewing, every 180 days, a list of foreign nationals who have been charged, convicted, or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity; the number of foreign nationals radicalized after entry into the United States; information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women; and any other relevant information.

As this Order is expansive, Greenberg Traurig will continue to monitor the conditions and changes. In addition, we expect additional Executive Orders related to immigration in the coming days and weeks. To receive updates, please subscribe to our blog.