While the Travel Ban has received the most press coverage over the last four months, there are other provisions of the Executive Order that contained the most recent version of the Travel Ban that immigrants and international travelers need to know about. The Department of State Will Begin Collecting New Data on travelers to the United States. This increased scrutiny of international travelers could mean delays for visa applicants and increased chances for errors and complications.
Why New Standards for Immigrants and International Travelers?
President Trump issued several executive orders during the first three months of his presidency. One of those orders, EO 13780 Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, contained the infamous “Travel Ban 2.0.” Travel Ban 2.0 received massive attention and scrutiny just as its predecessor, Trump’s initial Travel Ban, due to its provisions banning nationals from six Muslim-majority countries and suspending the admission of refugees.
Since Travel Ban 2.0 was introduced, it has been the focus of litigation by several states and is currently being considered by the Supreme Court. However, there are other provisions in the Executive Order. These provisions have received less attention and press coverage, but could have significant tangible consequences for international travelers to the United States.
What Are The New Standards For International Travelers?
EO 13780 directs the Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine what additional information is necessary to vet foreign nationals applying for immigration benefits such as visas. In response, on July 12, 2017, the Department of State notified all embassies and consulates that there will be new standards for information required of applicants for visas and other benefits.
The guidance issued by DOS requires that foreign posts “inform host governments of the new information sharing standards and request that host government provide the requested information or develop a plan to do so.”
This instruction sent by DOS essentially requires that other countries develop plans to provide necessary information on their citizens and travelers or face punishment to their citizens’ ability to travel to the United States. DOS and DHS state that these requests will provide additional information that is needed to make accurate determinations that foreign nationals will not present a threat.
These DOS instructions apply to every nation, and even visa waiver countries will be expected to share information on identity management and security and all public safety threats.
All United States diplomatic posts will be expected to adhere to new standards that include:
- Issue or have active plans to issue electronic passports including biometric imaging
- Will provide and update samples of all passports and national identity documents
- Regularly report lost or stolen passports to INTERPOL
- Are prepared to supply any identity information requested, including biometric or biographic details
- Provide or will provide data on individuals it knows or has grounds to believe are terrorists, including foreign terrorists
- Provide or will provide criminal record information
- Will agree not to impede the transfer of information about U.S.-bound travelers to the U.S. government
- Will agree not to designate individuals for watch lists solely on the basis of political or religious beliefs
- Take measures or will take measures to ensure that the country is not and does not have the potential to become a safe haven for terrorists. For instance, posts will need to know: “[w]hat steps has your host government taken to deny terrorists space in which to operate? Are there ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed physical areas in the host country or bureaucratic practices that allow mala fide travelers to use host country passports to travel to the United States?”
- Agree to repatriate their own nationals who have been removed from the United States
The Administration will identify countries that are failing to meet these standards and publish a list that could eventually lead to the identified countries facing travel bans. This list will be issued after 50 days, on August 31, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary will recommend countries for inclusion on the designated list for failure to adhere to the standards.
Possible Complications for Visa Applicants Under New Standards
EO 13780 also requires that all visa applicants attend an in-person interview with a consular officer to determine their eligibility unless seeking to travel with a diplomatic visa, NATO visa, or visa given for travel to the United States, or in other limited circumstances involving special visas for travel for related to an international organization or for conducting meetings or business with the United States government.
The previously-introduced Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allowed applicants renewing certain visas in particular circumstances to obtain their visas without interview, is suspended under this Executive Order.
The Trump administration has made clear that it intends to increase scrutiny of international travelers as a national security measure. However, in practice, the increased sharing of information under EO 13780 could also mean increased delays for visa applicants if the Department of State waits for foreign governments to provide requested information.
The increased sharing of information may also affect an individual’s ability to obtain a visa if incorrect information is provided or information is inconsistent with statements made by visa applicants on their application forms or at interview, even if no intentional misrepresentation is made.
If you are worried about issues you may have coming to the United States or want to inquire into possible visas be sure to reach out to an experienced Immigration Attorney that can help the process go smoothly.