|By Susan E. Hill, March 6, 2017
New Travel Ban for 90 Days Targets Six Predominantly Muslim Countries
Today President Trump revoked the earlier ban of January 2017 and signed a new travel ban against six predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (Iraq was left off the list). Here are some key highlights:
The new Executive Order gave brief descriptions of conflict/terrorism support in each of the six countries, to demonstrate why these countries were chosen for the ban. Accompanying statements and documents/letters issued by the Attorney General and the DHS also explained that these countries were chosen because they were countries where “the central government has lost control of territory to terrorists or terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, core al-Qa’ida, and their regional affiliates,” increasing a risk that nationals of these countries have been radicalized or become members.
An agenda was also provided for the ban: in the first 20 days, DHS will review each country’s identity and security information provided to support U.S. visa and other immigration benefit determinations. The countries will then have 50 days to comply with requests from the U.S. Government to update or improve the quality of the information they provide.
It also requires DHS to release information every 180 days about terrorism-related activity committed by noncitizens in the U.S. as well as gender-based violence against women committed by noncitizens. Finally, the EO suspends admission of refugees for 120 days so DHS can review screening procedures; but the suspension does not apply to those refugees already “formally scheduled” for transit by the State Department. Refugee admissions will be lowered to only 50,000 for Fiscal Year 2017. Again, individualized waivers are available.
H-1B Premium Processing Will Not Be Available This April
USCIS recently announced that this season’s H-1B filings (commencing April 3, 2017) will not be eligible for the optional faster processing known as “premium processing.” H-1B applications are for “specialty occupations” that generally require a bachelor’s degree or higher. The H-1B petitions still will be accepted, but they will be processed at normal rates. This is to reduce existing backlog, and to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases. “Expedited Processing” will be available, but the case must meet certain criteria: severe financial loss, emergency situation, humanitarian reasons, and others. It is not yet known how quickly an employer can expect a decision on an H-1B petition filed during the season. This affects the plans of many persons, especially those with lawful status expiring soon after the H-1B filing deadline—these people will have to wait longer to hear if their lawful status has been extended. More information at USCIS.