President Donald Trump’s Executive Order to ban travel to the United States from a list of several countries took affect December 2018, after two earlier iterations had been blocked by lower courts, and applies different degrees of the ban on travel which encompasses seven countries in total, five of which are countries with a Muslim majority.
According to the executive order, it indefinitely suspends issuance of visas to those who have filed for immigration visas from Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela. The number of individuals who are affected by the travel ban is believed to exceed 135 million individuals. A number that has been used by several immigrant advocacy groups. According to the court’s majority, the travel ban is not considered a Muslim travel ban due to the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela in the executive order.
While the countries listed on the travel ban are suspended from applying for immigration visas, there is a process of granting exceptions. According to the United States immigration department, there exists a comprehensive system for issuing waivers to individuals from the countries listed on the travel ban list.
In order to be granted an exception waiver, the person applying for the visa must meet the following criteria:
– Whether denying entry to an application would cause undue hardship
– Whether the applicant represents a security threat
– Whether entry would be in the best interest of the United States
According to the executive order, granting waivers is left to the discretion of the officers responsible for reviewing applications. Unfortunately, USCIS has still not explicitly detailed how and where these waivers to the ban can be filed or provided any clear criteria for filing these waivers. Having an experienced immigration attorney at your side is of the utmost importance due to these factors as an experienced immigration attorney will be able to argue these points in the individuals favor and the attorney is able to represent and argue for the individual seeking a U.S. visa during this review process. Keep in mind that obtaining a waiver will not guarantee entry into the United States. The individual will still need to follow the existing processes for obtaining a visa.
The country most affected by the travel ban is Iran. Based on population, there are 80 million Iranians that fall under the travel ban therefore Iran is considered the country most affected. Even though tensions between the United States and Iran have been strained under the Trump Administration and have heated up significantly as of late, thousands of Iranians have still been able to come to the US to study.
The executive order does grant some exceptions for student visas, however that doesn’t mean students will have an easier time obtaining a visa and be able to come to the United States. These students will still need to go through an incredibly extensive, and lengthy background check and vetting process, and due to this vetting process, their applications could be delayed for many months before they can begin applying for a student visa. It is highly recommended that if you plan on studying in the United States in the future to take these time frames into consideration during your education planning phase.
Even if they are able to obtain student visas, they can still be questioned and stopped by Border Patrol agents if there is any doubt that the purposes of their travel is indeed related to something other than studying in the United States. Any student who has obtained a student visa before the executive order was signed should not have any issues being able to return to the United States to continue their education if they have been away on recess, summer break or took time off between semesters.