Immigration and Visa Policy Updates

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U.S. Travel & Immigration Policy Updates

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Recent changes to U.S. immigration procedures, including a proposed temporary travel ban affecting seven countries have created a great deal of uncertainty for student candidates and business schools. We understand the immediacy and the complexity of the issues that schools are facing, and the importance of sharing information. Below you’ll find ongoing context and analysis on the impact these changes are having and may potentially have on the graduate management education community, including actions GMAC is taking on behalf of schools and candidates and available resources.

Please check back here often for updates. We welcome your comments at ceo@gmac.com.


U.S. Travel & Immigration Policy Updates – March 20, 2017

Prepared on behalf of GMAC by Montserrat Miller, partner in the Privacy and Consumer Regulatory; Immigration; and Government Affairs practice groups at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Washington, D.C.

Travel Ban Again Halted by the Courts

On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order restricting travel to the United States by individuals from certain countries, suspending refugee admissions, and limiting the number of refugees admitted in fiscal year 2017 to 50,000. This is the second such executive order signed by President Trump and now the second executive order stopped by the courts. The latest executive order is entitled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. It revokes the prior executive order (EO 13769) signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, which was on hold as a result of litigation.

Of immediate concern for international students and faculty is that the updated executive order would temporarily ban individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for a period of 90 days from the effective date of the order, which was March 16, 2017. Individuals from Iraq are not included on this list. The travel ban would apply to foreign nationals of the designated countries who are (i) outside the United States on the effective date of the order; (ii) did not have a valid visa as of January 27, 2017; and (iii) do not have a valid visa as of the date of this executive order. The executive order would not apply to lawful permanent residents and certain other categories of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States.

However, the travel ban is on hold as federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have enjoined the latest executive order from going into effect. In a suit brought by the State of Hawaii, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson issued a nationwide temporary restraining order on March 15, 2017, temporarily enjoining the administration from enforcing and implementing Section 2 (the 90-day travel ban on nationals of six countries) and Section 6 (suspension of the refugee program for 120 days) of the executive order. In Maryland, in response to a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center, U.S. District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang issued a nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the 90-day travel ban.

Relevant to the academic community, in its complaint the State of Hawaii claimed in part that its public university, the University of Hawaii, would be hurt by the executive order, both financially and due to non-monetary losses. In his opinion, Judge Watson states that “for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, the State has preliminarily demonstrated that…its universities will suffer monetary damages and intangible harms...” from implementation of the executive order. The Department of Justice and the White House have stated that the administration will appeal both rulings and it is important to note that both judicial actions are temporary in nature and therefore should be closely monitored for developments.



U.S. Travel & Immigration Policy Updates – March 7, 2017

Prepared on behalf of GMAC by Montserrat Miller, partner in the Privacy and Consumer Regulatory; Immigration; and Government Affairs practice groups at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Washington, D.C.

On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order restricting travel to the United States by individuals from certain countries, suspending refugee admissions, and limiting the number of refugees admitted in fiscal year 2017 to 50,000.

Of immediate concern for international students and faculty is that the updated executive order will temporarily ban individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for a period of 90 days from the effective date of the order, which is March 16, 2017. Individuals from Iraq are not included on this list. The travel ban will apply to foreign nationals of the designated countries who are (i) outside the United States on the effective date of the order; (ii) did not have a valid visa as of January 27, 2017; and (iii) do not have a valid visa as of the date of this executive order. The executive order does not apply to lawful permanent residents and certain other categories of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States.

The executive order is entitled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. It revokes the prior executive order (EO 13769) signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, which was on hold as a result of litigation.

To learn more click here; and also read Homeland Security Secretary Kelly’s statement on the executive order; as well as the Fact Sheet and Q&A released by the Department of Homeland Security. According to the Fact Sheet, the executive order will affect travel by nationals of the six countries as follows – “For the next 90 days, foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen who are outside the United States on the effective date of the order, do not currently have a valid visa on the effective date of this order, and did not have a valid visa at 5:00 eastern standard time on January 27, 2017, are not eligible to travel to the United States. The 90-day period will allow for proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals.” Again, the “effective date” of the order is March 16, 2017.

Questions 24 and 25 of the Q&A specifically address questions for international students, exchange visitors and their dependents. The questions are below:

“Q24. Are international students, exchange visitors, and their dependents from the six countries (such as F, M, or J visa holders) included in the Executive Order? What kind of guidance is being given to foreign students from these countries legally in the United States?

The Executive Order does not apply to individuals who are within the United States on the effective date of the Order or to those individuals who hold a valid visa. Visas which were provisionally revoked solely as a result of the enforcement of Executive Order 13769 are valid for purposes of administering this Executive Order. Individuals holding valid F, M, or J visas may continue to travel to the United States on those visas if they are otherwise valid.

Please contact the State Department for information about how the Executive Order applies to visa applicants.

Q25. What happens to international students, exchange visitors or their dependents from the six countries, such as F, M or J visa holders if their visa expires while the Executive Order is in place and they have to depart the country?

The Executive Order does not affect F, M, or J visa holders if they currently have a valid visa on the effective date or held a valid visa on January 27, 2017 prior to the issuance of the Executive Order. With that said, travelers must have a valid visa to travel to the United States, regardless of the Executive Order. Travelers whose visa expires after the effective date of the Executive Order must obtain a new, valid visa to return to the United States.


U.S. Travel & Immigration Policy Updates - February 13, 2017

Prepared on behalf of GMAC by Montserrat Miller, partner in the Privacy and Consumer Regulatory; Immigration; and Government Affairs practice groups at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Washington, D.C.

Status of President Trump’s Travel Ban and the Effect on Institutions of Higher Education and International Students, Scholars and Faculty

The President’s Executive Order (EO) on immigration remains on hold. Last week a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in a unanimous decision, upheld the stay against the President’s EO which was put in place by Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on February 3rd, 2017. This particular immigration-related EO seeks to ban nationals from the following seven countries from entering the United States—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen—for 90 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely, and all refugees for a period of 90 days.

The Administration’s proposed travel ban affected international faculty, students and scholars and their ability to freely enter the United States as well as restricted those within the United States to remaining in place. Challenges to the EO were brought on different grounds, including arguments by the States of Washington and Minnesota that the EO harms their public universities. Judge Robart stated in the Temporary Restraining Order against the President’s EO that “the States themselves are harmed by virtue of the damage that implementation of the Executive Order has inflicted upon the operations and missions of their public universities and other institutions of higher learning….” The unanimous decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals states, “…the States allege that teaching and research missions of their universities are harmed by the Executive Order’s effect on their faculty and students who are nationals of the seven affected countries. These students and faculty cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or for personal reasons, and their families abroad cannot visit. Some have been stranded outside the country, unable to return to the universities at all. The schools cannot consider attractive student candidates and cannot hire faculty from the seven affected countries….” In sum, part of the challenge to the President’s immigration EO rests on the harmful effect of such a travel ban on international students, scholars and faculty in public universities and colleges.

It is important to note that this EO and the litigation around it remains on-going and fluid and international students, scholars and faculty from the seven countries are cautioned to not make travel plans outside the United States without consulting with their Designated School Official (DSO) as well as immigration counsel. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision relates to the stay on implementing the EO issued by the lower court, but does not directly address the legality of the EO itself, which will be addressed in the lower court. The latest news is that President Trump and his team are assessing whether to continue the current litigation by, for instance, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, or revising and issuing a new EO.

This situation should be closely monitored. The latest statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on February 4th, 2017 was that they have “suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections” of the EO and DHS will resume inspection of travelers “in accordance with standard policy and procedure.” See also news from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on the travel ban and current status at ports of entry.

Additional articles on the academic community’s response to the ban can be found here, here and here


Pending Legislation

Expect a high number of immigration-related bills to be introduced in both chambers of the U.S. Congress during the 115th Congress, which started on January 3, 2017. Here are two examples:

  • The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 (S. 180) introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) seeks to reform the H-1B and L-1 system. One way this would be accomplished is by prioritizing those with advanced degrees as well as international students educated in the United States.  H-1B petitions would be ranked in order of priority, with for instance, advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics taking precedence over other advanced degrees. The bill eliminates what is commonly referred to “B-1 in lieu of H-1.” Stay tuned for more updates.
  • The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (the RAISE Act) introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA). The bill would reduce legal immigration by (i) cutting the number of immigrants by half, to 500,000 annually by limiting the number of family-based visas; (ii) eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery program which grants 50,000 visas annually; and (iii) capping the number of refugees who receive green cards to 50,000 per year. The bill does not address employment-related immigration. For more about this legislation click here. Stay tuned for more updates.

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