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Immigration and Travel Alerts

A number of Executive Orders have been issued by President Trump in late January 2017, leaving many with more questions than answers regarding changes to US immigration policy. We have summarized some of the recent changes that impact international students, scholars, and employees below, but in all cases encourage you to monitor the website of our professional organization NAFSA: Association of International Educators, as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). These groups employ expert attorneys and policy analysts whose explanations of these policies is incredibly valuable.

NAFSA: Updates on Recent Executive Actions

AILA: Immigration 2017 – A New President and Congress

While these organizations are trusted to provide impartial information, written by experts, about recent changes to immigration policy, other online sources may offer false or misleading information. Please exercise caution and be aware of the source of any information you might find online or elsewhere.

 


Update: Statement Regarding the Suspension of Visa Services in Turkey, Effective October 9, 2017

The US Embassy and Consulates in Turkey have announced that nonimmigrant visa processing has been suspended indefinitely.  The Turkish government has also announced that it has suspended visa services for US citizens wishing to enter Turkey.

In a statement released yesterday, US Ambassador John Bass remarked, “[T]his suspension of services is not a visa ban on Turkish citizens.  It’s a suspension of our consideration of new visa applications.  If you have a valid visa, you can still travel to the United States.  If you want to apply for a visa at another U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Turkey, you are free to do so.”

The suspension of nonimmigrant US visa services in Turkey has ramifications not only for Turkish citizens wishing to travel to the US to study or conduct research, but also for citizens and nationals of neighboring countries who make use of Turkey’s embassies and consulates.  In addition, with the suspension of Turkish visa processing for US citizens, Americans who do not already hold a valid Turkish visa will not be able to apply for a new nonimmigrant visa.

US citizens with questions about how the new regulation will affect any travel plans to Turkey are encouraged to contact their nearest Turkish embassy or consulate.

Members of the UMBC community with questions regarding these announcements of suspended nonimmigrant visa services are welcome to contact the International Education Services (IES) office.

 

Updated October 10, 2017


Update: Trump Administration Renews and Revises “Travel Ban,” including removal of Sudan; inclusion of Chad, North Korea and Venezuela; and specific restrictions for each country on the list, effective Oct 18, 2017

On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued a Proclamation extending and adjusting restrictions on visa issuance to citizens of 8 countries. Sudan has been removed from the list. This proclamation includes temporary, specific restrictions for each individual country on the list, summarized here:

Chad : B-1/2 visitor visas and permanent resident (immigration) visas suspended

Iran: All visas and permanent resident (immigration) visas suspended, except F, M and J visas, which include the student and exchange visitor categories.  Applicants for these categories should expect extra scrutiny

Libya: B-1/B-2 visitor visas and permanent resident (immigration) visas suspended

North Korea: All visa categories suspended

Syria: All visa categories suspended

Venezuela: B-1/B-2 Tourist visas are suspended ONLY for select officials of Venezuelan government agencies and their immediate family members

Yemen: B-1/B-2 visitor visas and permanent resident (immigration) visas suspended

Somalia: Permanent resident (immigration) visas suspended; other applicants should expect extra scrutiny

Please note: as of October 18, 2017, the previous exception based on a relationship to someone already in the US will no longer justify a waiver.

 

Exceptions:  Exceptions to those subject to the new restrictions include those already in the US; US Permanent Residents, Asylees and Refugees; and holders of A, C, G, NATO or other diplomatic visas.

Waivers: It is possible, but not guaranteed, to be issued a waiver of these restrictions under certain circumstances, which will be decided the the US Department of State.  The Proclamation gives 10 example situations, including: family of US Permanent Residents, Asylees or Citizens; US-sponsored J-1 exchange visitors; and Canadian permanent residents.

 

The full text of the “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats” can be found here.

Additional resources for more information:
White House FAQ on Proclamation
White House Fact Sheet on Proclamation
NAFSA Association of International Educators “Indefinite Entry Bar Under Executive Order”

 

Updated September 25, 2017


Update: Supreme Court Reinstates Certain Components of “Travel Ban” Executive Order on June 26, 2017, which take effect June 29, 2017

On June 26 2017, the US Supreme Court announced that certain parts of the original “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” Executive Order (EO-2), would be reinstated until the Court will have a full hearing in October.  This reinstatement took place on the evening of June 29, 2017.

The 90 day ban on entry and inability to apply for a visa to the US for nationals of Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen has resumed as of June 29.  The entrance of refugees to the US is also temporarily banned.

There is an exception for this a ban for individuals from these 6 countries with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

This is being interpreted to mean that individuals holding permanent residence in the US, or that have a a valid non-immigrant visa such as F-1 or J-1, should be able to enter the US.  Some language also suggests that individuals renewing these visa types to continue activity in the US that is already taking place will also be allowed to apply for a new visa and return to the US.

According to KLASKO Immigration Law Firm, “While guidance from the State Department and Customs and Border Protection is still forthcoming, the provisions of EO-2 will still allow entry by permanent residents from the six countries; persons holding valid nonimmigrant visas from those countries; and persons holding other valid travel documents (such as advance parole documents) issued before the EO’s effective date.  EO-2 also allows for foreign nationals from the six countries to be issued visas in spite of the order if they can demonstrate that a delay in visa issuance during the ban would cause undue hardship.  The EO-2 waiver provision provides a non-exhaustive list of situations, such as a foreign student renewing an F-1 visa to return to a prior course of study, or who has “significant contacts” with the United States but is outside the United States during the validity of the EO.”  (citation)

The Department of State recently unofficially clarified how the Executive Order is being reinforced as well.  This includes clarification of what kind of family relationship is included, and also strongly suggests that individuals from these 6 countries will be able to apply for most visa categories, including F, J and H, and enter the US, as the nature of these visa types establishes a bonafide relationship with a US entity, such as a student seeking to begin a degree program at a University.  B, C, D and K visas are specifically still subject to the new Executive Order’s temporary ban, and will not be available to individuals from these 6 countries who do not have the family relationship in the US that would make them eligible.

Important for current students is the indication that any one from these 6 countries with an existing visa can continue to use it, and those with a valid visa as of June 29 shoudl eb able to renew during the period of the ban as well.

Klasko law firm provides an excellent summary of the new details, including which family relationships are eligible, and which visa categories are NOT eligible, to waive the temporary ban, in their client alert.

As this update is recent, there are still no official directions from the different government agencies that will be implementing these changes – the Department of State (DOS), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  We will provide updates here as they become available.

For additional information, please review these links:

KLASKO Law Firm Update 1

KLASKO Law Firm Update 2

NAFSA Association of International Educators Update 

 

Updated June 26, 2017


Update: New Executive Order “Buy American and Hire American” issued April 18, 2017;  H-1b mentioned in Order

The latest Executive Order released by the White House is entitled “Buy American and Hire American“.  As with many provisions of the Executive Orders released in January and March, this document puts forward the administration’s priorities for immigration, but it does not change any existing laws or programs.

We know that many students are concerned about possible changes to the H-1b worker program, but again, no changes have been made to the H-1b program.

To summarize the relevant parts of the order as phrased by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the “announcement reflects the administration’s desire to move toward reforms to the H-1B program, there will be no immediate changes or impacts on H-1Bs. Simply put, it appears that the agencies are asked to review policies related to all visa programs and recommend changes to root out “fraud and abuse,” and to propose additional reforms so that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants”(citation).

As a reminder, the President cannot change immigration laws alone.  This has to be done through the regular law-making process, which usually takes at least 6-8 months, minimum.  Any concrete changes will be debated and everyone will be very aware of potential upcoming changes.  At this point, there is nothing like that to report.

You can also monitor the situation and read through more in-depth analysis through expert resources, such as NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, and AILA: the American Immigration Law Association.

Updated April 18, 2017

Update: Federal Courts Issue Nation-Wide Restraining Order; new Executive Order is not currently being enforced as of March 16, 2017

On March 15 and 16, 2017, various Federal Courts have issued a temporary restraining order against the new Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”  It is not currently legal for the new Executive Order to be enforced.

 

Updated March 16, 2017


Update: New Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” effective March 16 2017

On March 6, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order entitled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. This Executive Order’s directives affect individuals from six countries, as well as all would-be Refugees to the US. Additionally, the Order calls for increased screening procedures and a review of existing processes in all Consulates.  This Order also rescinds and replaces the January 29 2017 Executive Order.

Individuals on both Immigrant or Non-Immigrant Visas from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are affected as follows:

  • Suspension of Entry to US for 90 days: The Executive Order specifically suspends permission to enter the US for 90 days, starting from March 16, 2017. At this time it is not clear when the ability to enter the US may resume.
  • Waiver Provision: Sec 3 (c) describes possible situations where an individual might be eligible for a waiver to this 90 day suspended entry period.  It is not encouraged to rely on this option, as the language is ambiguous and there is no way to know exactly how it will be interpreted.
  • Exemptions: The ban of entry to the US does NOT impact citizens of these six countries who:
    • Have a second country of citizenship (and use that passport when entering the US)
    • Are US Permanent Residents
    • Hold US A, G, C or TN visas
    • Already hold Refugee or Asylee status in the US

Individuals from all countries should also be aware of the following aspects of the Executive Order:

  • Suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP) – The Executive Order suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which some US Embassies used to allow individuals to apply for visas or visa renewal without an in-person interview. Interviews are now required for all visa applications.
  • Increased Screenings, Possible Travel Delays– The Executive Order calls for an increased biometrics program at all ports of entry, and other additional screenings not specified, which may lead to delays in entrance to the US at a US port of entry, such as an airport.
  • Future Changes in Visa Issuance for additional countries– The Executive order calls for a review of US visa issuance procedures in all countries.  These continuing revisions and reviews may result in countries being added to or removed from the visa/entry suspension list, changes in fees, or visa lengths.  The Order suggests these reports and any recommended action should be available within 20 days of the date of the Order, and that any country found to not have adequate screening will be given 50 days to adjust their processes and be re-evaluated before any action is taken.

We recognize that these changes, as well as those referenced but not yet finalized, are both stressful and disruptive, and wish to offer our support and services to any of our international students, scholars, or employees who have questions or concerns. UMBC’s International Education Services (IES) office assures you that we are closely monitoring the situation as it affects our international student, scholar, and employee populations, and will share updates with the impacted communities as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does this executive order affect my immigration status in the US?

Can I travel outside the US, and renew my visa?

Will I still have OPT/ STEM OPT available when I graduate?  Will the H-1B program be cancelled? 

Will the Fulbright program or the J visa program disappear? Will the J-1 Two-Year Home Residency Requirement significantly change?

Where can I find support if I have immigration or concerns? Support for anxiety or stress?

What can I do if I or someone I know is the target of, or witness to, a hate crime or hate-motivated act? Where can I report an incident of harassment or violence?

How can I avoid causing any problems with my ability to stay in the US?

 

How does this executive order affect my immigration status in the US?
There is currently no impact on the immigration status of those physically present in the United States. Current regulations remain in place, until any changes may be made and formalized into law. Be aware that changes in laws or regulations take time and require the approval of many US lawmakers, and we will be aware of these changes as they are being reviewed in advance of any approval.

However, changes in policy or guidance and Executive Orders may happen more quickly and may take effect immediately, such as the Executive Order of March 6. IES will monitor any decisions impacting our student and scholar populations and will provide updated information as it is available through this website and via email. Our office makes announcements to international students through the IES Notes email list – if you would like to subscribe, please email ies@umbc.edu

Can I travel outside the US, and renew my visa?  
Starting from March 16, 2017, entry to the US is suspended for individuals on Non-Immigrant Visas from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Executive Order also includes the possibility of adding countries to this list after a period of review.

Individuals not from these six countries can choose to leave the US and apply for visas, but should be prepared for the possibility of additional scrutiny when applying for a visa as well as entering the US.

Will OPT/STEM OPT still be available when I graduate?  Will the H-1B program be cancelled? 
There are currently no changes being made to these programs. Be aware that changes in laws or regulations take time and will have advance warning. Changes in policy or guidance and executive orders may happen more quickly and may take affect immediately. IES will be monitoring and new developments and will inform the community of any updates that could have an impact.

Will the Fulbright program or the J visa program disappear? Will the J-1 Two-Year Home Residency Requirement significantly change?
There are currently no changes being made to these programs. Be aware that changes in laws or regulations take time and will have advance warning. Changes in policy or guidance and executive orders may happen more quickly and may take affect immediately. IES will be monitoring and new developments and will inform the community of any updates that could have an impact.

Where can I find support if I have immigration or concerns? Support for anxiety or stress?
Please visit IES with any F-1 or J-1 immigration concerns or questions. Our advisers provide a welcoming, safe environment to explore your concerns related to your immigration status. For complex issues beyond our scope, we can offer guidance in finding a referral for an immigration attorney.

Enrolled UMBC students can access resources through the UMBC Counseling Center, including individual confidential counseling appointments, groups, self-help tools, and more. UMBC employees and Visiting Scholars or postdocs can find support through the Employee Assistance Program which provides free, confidential counseling and referrals.

What can I do if I or someone I know is the target of, or witness to, a hate crime or hate-motivated act? Where can I report an incident of harassment or violence?
If you have witnessed or experienced intimidation, harassment, or violence against individuals and targeted groups you can file a report with UMBC Police Department.  These crimes are taken very seriously by police and are investigated to the fullest extent of the law.

How can I avoid causing any problems with my ability to stay in the US?
At any time, it is important to avoid any violations of your F-1 or J-1 status. In addition to meeting course enrollment requirements, reporting any change in address, and only working with proper authorization, individuals in non-immigrant status are expected to refrain from breaking any US, Maryland, or Baltimore County laws.

If you choose to participate in protests, please understand that an arrest can have serious immigration implications. Arrests or convictions that involve violence, drugs, or alcohol can have very serious and long-lasting impacts on current and future immigration status. While some states now permit the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana, it is still an illegal controlled substance at the federal level. Moreover, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs can result in fines, jail time, visa cancellation, or deportation.

If you are arrested or have any legal concerns, please contact IES immediately. In such cases, we urge you to seek advice from a qualified immigration attorney.

 

Updated March 7, 2017


Update:  Parts of Executive Action Temporarily Halted as of Feb 3, 2017

On Friday, February 3, a US District Judge ruled several parts of the Executive Order entitled Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals to be “stayed,” or temporarily halted, in response to the lawsuit that multiple US States have brought against the Order, including Washington State and Minnesota.

Currently, certain new rules contained by this Executive Order are not being enforced, and international travel and immigration benefits are available following the guidelines originally in effect before the Executive Order was issued. 

The Temporary Restraining Order covers sections 3(c), 5(a), 5(b), 5(c), and 5(e) of the Executive Order, which include the rules related to the entry/immigration benefits ban and the refugee program. It does not cover the remaining parts of the Order; so, for example, the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP) will continue to be suspended and all visa applications will require an in-person interview.

While this is the latest update, it is expected that there will be a fast-paced legal battle and the situation can change at any time. Please continue to pay close attention to reliable news sources to get the best information.

The Maryland Office of the Attorney General has also published a summary of the recent updates, available here.

Updated February 6, 2017

 


 

Brief Summary of Recent Executive Actions

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order entitled Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals. This Executive Order’s directives affect individuals from seven countries, as well as all would-be Refugees to the US. Additionally, the Order calls for increased screening procedures and a review of existing processes in all Consulates.

Individuals on both Immigrant or Non-Immigrant Visas from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (i.e. nationals of these countries, or those who were born in or are permanent residents of these countries, or are dual nationals) are affected as follows:

  • Suspension of Visa  Issuance and Entry to US– The Executive Order specifically suspends issuance of US visas or permission to enter the US for 90 days, starting from January 27, 2017. At this time it is not clear when visa issuance and ability to enter the US may resume.
    US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the government office responsible for entry of non-citizens to the US, has issued a statement, here.  They also clarify that citizens of the 7 impacted countries that hold US permanent residency will not be banned from entry to the US, but may experience additional scrutiny.
  • Possible Suspension of USCIS benefits– The Executive Order also includes wording which suggests that USCIS benefits (such as Change of Status, Employment Authorization including OPT and OPT STEM Extensions, H-1B petitions) may also be suspended for 90 days from January 27, 2017.  However, this is not yet clear.

Individuals from all countries should also be aware of the following aspects of the Executive Order:

  • Suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP)– The Executive Order suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which some US Embassies used to allow individuals to apply for visas or visa renewal without an in-person interview. Interviews are now required for all visa applications.
  • Increased Screenings, Possible Travel Delays– The Executive Order calls for an increased biometrics program at all ports of entry, and other additional screenings not specified, which may lead to delays in entrance to the US at a US port of entry, such as an airport.
  • Future Changes in Visa Issuance for additional countries– The Executive order calls for a review of US visa issuance procedures in all countries, as well as visa reciprocity rules, which determine the length of time a visa will be valid based on an individual’s country of citizenship. These continuing revisions and reviews may result in countries being added to or removed from the visa/entry suspension list, changes in fees, or visa lengths.  The Order suggests these reports and any recommended action should be available within 90 days of the date of the Order.

We recognize that these changes, as well as those referenced but not yet finalized, are both stressful and disruptive, and wish to offer our support and services to any of our international students, scholars, or employees who have questions or concerns. UMBC’s International Education Services (IES) office assures you that we are closely monitoring the situation as it affects our international student, scholar, and employee populations, and will share updates with the impacted communities as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The text of the Executive Order from January 27, 2017, Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals, is available here.

UMBC’s leadership has issued a statement in reaction to the Executive Action, which can be accessed here.

Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Published January 31, 2017