Category Archives: immigrant petition

Adjusting to Permanent Resident Status Under INA 245(a): Bars, Exceptions and Exemptions

Section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows certain foreign nationals who are physically present in the U.S. to adjust to permanent resident status and avoid filing for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

But unless an exception or exemption applies, you are barred from filing for INA 245(a) adjustment if you are in unlawful immigration status at the time of filing a Form I-485 [INA 245(c)(2) bar]; you have violated the conditions of your nonimmigrant status or visa [INA 245c)(2) and INA 245(c)(2)(8) bars]; and/or you failed to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status when you would otherwise be eligible for employment-based immigration [INA 245(c)(7) bar].

Statutory Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a)

The bars to INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status (AOS) include the following:

1. You Are In Unlawful Immigration Status at the Time of Filing a Form I-485 Application: INA 245(c)(2) Bar

Under INA 245(c)(2), an INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status application will be denied if at the time of the Form I-485 filing, you are not in lawful immigration status. For purposes of the INA 245(c)(2) bar, lawful status includes nonimmigrants (e.g. B1/B2 visitor, F-1 student, H-1B professional worker); refugees; asylees; parolees; and foreign nationals in Temporary Protected Status (TPS​).

You are in unlawful immigration status if you have never had lawful status (e.g. entered the U.S. without inspection and admission or parole) or ​your ​lawful status ​has ended​ (expired or was rescinded, revoked, or otherwise terminated due to violation of nonimmigrant status or other reason).

Having authorized stay is different from having lawful immigration status. The timely filing of a pending application to extend or change status (Form I-129 or Form I-539), or a pending application for adjustment (Form I-485), generally provides authorized stay, but does ​not​ provide lawful immigration status.

​A person who has a timely-filed pending Extension of Status (EOS) or Change of Status (COS) application may file a Form I-485 application after his or her nonimmigrant status expires. But if USCIS denies the EOS or COS application, you are generally considered to be in unlawful immigration status as of the expiration of your nonimmigrant status and on the date the adjustment application is filed. The INA 245(c)(2) bar would then apply, unless an exemption is available.

2. You Failed to Continuously Maintain Status and/or Violated the Terms of Your Nonimmigrant Visa: INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8) Bars

You are not eligible to file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, under ​INA 245(a)​ if, other than through no fault of your own or for technical reasons,​you have ever:

Failed to continuously maintain a lawful status since entry into the United States. [You are barred from adjustment of status under INA 245(c)(2) if you are in unlawful immigration status on the date of filing the Form I-485 application.]

OR

Violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status​, such as worked without authorization. [You are barred from adjustment of status under ​INA 245(c)(8) not only if you violated the terms of your most recent nonimmigrant status, but also if you ever violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status at any time during any prior periods of stay in the U.S. as a nonimmigrant.​]

To be eligible for AOS, you only need to maintain your nonimmigrant status until you properly file a Form I-485 adjustment application with USCIS, ​so​ long as you do not engage in unauthorized employment after filing the adjustment application.​ But to protect yourself from being placed in removal proceedings if your Form I-485 is denied, you should continue to maintain your nonimmigrant status (e.g. H-1B) when possible.

When the ​INA 245(c)(2)​ and ​INA 245(c)(8) Bars May Be Excused

For purposes of ​INA 245(c)(2)​ and ​INA 245(c)(8)​, a failure to maintain lawful immigration status or violation of nonimmigrant status may be excused only for the specific period under consideration if: ​

a. The applicant was reinstated to F, M, or J status

If USCIS reinstates F or M student nonimmigrant status or if the U.S. Department of State reinstates J exchange visitor nonimmigrant status, the reinstatement only excuses the particular period of time the nonimmigrant failed to maintain status. The reinstatement does not excuse prior or future failure to maintain status.​

b. The applicant’s failure to maintain status was through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons

The term  “other than through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons”​ ​is limited to the following​ ​circumstances:​ 

  • Inaction of another person or organization designated by regulation to act on behalf of an applicant or over whose actions the applicant has no control, if the inaction is acknowledged by that person or organization.
  • Technical violation resulting from inaction of USCIS
  • Technical violation caused by the physical inability of the applicant to request an extension of nonimmigrant stay from USCIS in person or by mail
  • Technical violation resulting from Legacy ​Immigration and Naturalization Service (​INS​)​’s application of the 5-​year​ or 6-year period of stay for certain H-1 nurses, if the nurse was re-instated to H-1 status as a result of the Immigration Amendments of 1988.​

c. The applicant was granted an extension of nonimmigrant stay or a change of nonimmigrant status.

The immigration officer will consider all your current and previous entries into and stays in the United States, including current and previous applications for extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS).

If USCIS approves a timely filed EOS or COS application, or excuses and approves an untimely filed EOS or COS application, the approval is effective as of the date of the expiration of the prior nonimmigrant status. In that event, you will be considered to have maintained lawful​ status ​despite the gap in time between the expiration of the prior nonimmigrant admission and the date of the EOS or COS approval.

3. You Are an Employment-Based Applicant Who Is Not in Lawful Nonimmigrant Status: INA 245(c)(7) Bar

If you are an employment-based adjustment applicant who is not in a lawful nonimmigrant status at the time of filing your Form I-485 application, you are barred from adjusting status under INA 245(c)(7). This bar does not apply if you were in a lawful nonimmigrant status at the time of filing for adjustment, subsequently left the United States, and returned using an approved advance parole travel document while the adjustment application remains pending. ​

For purposes of this bar to adjustment, the term “lawful nonimmigrant status” includes a foreign national in a lawful status classified under the nonimmigrant statutory provisions(e.g. B1/B2 visitor, F-1 student, H-1B professional worker) and a foreign national in Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

​Lawful nonimmigrant status does not include parolees, ​asylees​, or certain other foreign nationals who are otherwise authorized to stay in the United States. ​

Exceptions and Exemptions to the Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a)

The ​INA 245(c)(2)​, ​INA 245(c)(8), and INA 245(c)(7)​ bars to adjustment do NOT apply to: ​

  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens [spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older)]
  • ​Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners/VAWA-based applicants
  • ​Certain foreign doctors/physicians and their accompanying spouse and children​
  • ​Certain G-4 international organization employees, NATO-6 employees, and their family members
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • ​Certain members of the U.S. ​armed forces​ and their spouse​s​ and children​
  • ​Employment-based applicants in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and certain 4th preference categories who meet the ​INA 245(k) exemption. [The INA 245(k) exemption applies if your failure to maintain a lawful status, engagement in unauthorized employment, or violation of the terms of your nonimmigrant status or nonimmigrant visa lasted only for 180 days or less since your most recent lawful admission.]

​Bars to Adjustment are Different from Grounds of Inadmissibility​

Bars to adjustment should not be confused with the grounds of inadmissibility listed in INA 212.

When you are inadmissible under section 212, you may not adjust status unless you qualify for a limited exception or unless a waiver of inadmissibility is available, you qualify for it, and it is granted to you. Inadmissibility grounds include health concerns (communicable disease of public health significance), criminal activity, national security, public charge, fraud and misrepresentation of material facts to gain immigration benefits, unlawful presence, and prior removals.

Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Because there are various bars and inadmissibility grounds to prevent AOS, as well as exemptions and waivers available, you need to consult an immigration attorney before you file a Form I-485 application to adjust to permanent resident status.

To learn more, read our related article, Who is Eligible (and Not Eligible) for Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status? 

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Who is Eligible (and Not Eligible) for Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status?

When you are physically present in the U.S., your filing for Adjustment of Status (AOS) allows you to become a permanent resident without needing to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

But if you are ineligible for AOS and mistakenly file a Form I-485​, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, your request will not only be denied, but you may also be placed in removal proceedings due to failure to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status and/or other grounds.

General Adjustment of Status (AOS) Eligibility Requirements

Foreign nationals may file for adjustment to permanent resident status if they meet the eligibility requirements at the time of submitting their ​Form I-485 application to USCIS.

Who is generally ELIGIBLE for AOS?

Immigrant categories that permit AOS include:

Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen [spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older)]

​Other relative of a U.S. citizen or​ relative of a lawful​ permanent resident under ​a​ family-based preference category (See U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for a  list of family-based preference categories)

​Person admitted to the United States on a K-1 visa as a f​iancé(e) of a U.S. citizen and then marries the U.S. citizen. [A K-1 visa holder who enters a valid and bona fide marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of arrival in the U.S. remains eligible to adjust status on that basis, even if the marriage is legally terminated (whether by death, dissolution, or divorce) prior to adjustment of status and regardless of whether he/she remarries thereafter.]

Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner

​Foreign national worker under an employment-based preference category (See U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for list of employment-based preference categories)

Foreign national entrepreneur (EB5 immigrant employment-based category)

Special immigrant (includes religious workers, special immigrant juveniles, certain Afghans and Iraqis, certain U.S. armed forces members, certain physicians)

Certain victim of human trafficking  (T nonimmigrant)

Certain victim of crime (U nonimmigrant)

Person granted asylum status

Person granted refugee status

Person selected in the ​Diversity Visa lottery program ​

Beneficiary of INA 245(i) benefits

Who is generally NOT ELIGIBLE for AOS?

With limited exceptions, foreign nationals who are barred from applying for AOS include:

Foreign national ​who last entered the United States without being inspected and admitted​ or paroled by an immigration officer. [INA 245(i) and VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this bar.]

Foreign national who last entered the United States on a C-1/D-1 or D-2 visa as a nonimmigrant ​crewman. [VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(1) bar.]

Foreign national who is now employed or has ever been employed in the United States without authorization. [ Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from these INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245 (c)(8) bars.]

Foreign national who ​is not ​in​ lawful immigration status on the date of filing the Form I-485 application. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(2) bar.]

Foreign national​ who ​has ever ​failed to continuously maintain ​a ​lawful status​ since entry into the United States​, unless the failure ​to maintain status ​was through no fault of his or her own or for technical​ ​reasons.  [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(2) bar.]

Foreign national ​who ​was last admitted to the United​ ​States​ ​in​ ​transit​ ​without​ ​a​ ​visa. [VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(3) bar.]

​Foreign national who was last ​admitted​ ​to​ ​Guam​ ​or the​ ​Commonwealth​ ​of the​ ​Northern​ ​Mariana​ ​Islands ​(CNMI) ​as a​ ​visitor​ ​under​ ​the Guam or CNMI​ ​V​isa​ ​Waiver Program​ and who is not a Canadian citizen. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizens are exempt from this bar.]

Foreign national ​who was last ​admitted ​to the United States as a nonimmigrant visitor without a visa under the ​Visa Waiver Program. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizens and VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c) bar.]

Foreign national ​who is​ deportable due to involvement in a terrorist activity or group. [​VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(6) bar, but may still be inadmissible for such activity.​]

​Foreign national who is seeking ​employment-based ​adjustment of status and ​who is not maintaining a lawful nonimmigrant status ​on the date of filing this ​application. [In some cases, the INA 245(k) exemption  excuses this INA 245(c)(7) bar.]

Foreign national who has ​ever ​violated​ ​the​ ​terms​ ​of the ​nonimmigrant status. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(8) bar.]

Foreign national who is a ​conditional permanent resident​. [Conditional permanent residents​ must instead file a Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on their status to obtain permanent residence unconditionally.]

Foreign national who was admitted to the U.S. on a K-1 nonimmigrant ​fiancé(e) visa, but did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed​ ​the petition or foreign national who was admitted as the K-2 ​nonimmigrant​ child of a fiancé(e)​ ​whose parent did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed​ ​the petition.​ 

INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status (AOS) Eligibility Requirements

Most applicants file for Adjustment of Status based on ​INA 245(a), which does not include all the possible ways of adjusting status, such as AOS of Refugees or Asylees under INA 209(b)​.

​​The AOS eligibility requirements under section 245(a) include:

1.  You must normally have​ been​ inspected and admitted​ ​into the United States​; or inspected and paroled into the United States.

Unless you are an INA 245(i) applicant or a V​iolence ​A​gainst ​W​omen ​A​ct (VAWA)​ applicant​, you must meet the Inspected and Admitted or Paroled Requirement before you apply for AOS under section 245(a).

To lawfully enter the United States, you must first present yourself for inspection to an immigration officer at a ​U.S.​ ​port of entry.

Admission

For lawful admission to occur, the immigration officer must authorize you to enter the U.S. in accordance with the procedures for admission.​  If, however, the admission was based on a false claim to U.S. citizenship or to U.S. nationality at the ​port of entry​, the lawful admission requirement is not met.

The most common documents showing lawful admission are:

Arrival/​Departure ​Record (Form I-94)

​Admission stamp in passport​, which may be verified using Department of Homeland Security (DHS) systems

Employment Authorization Card (Form I-688A), for special ​agricultural worker applicants, provided it was valid during the last claimed date of entry on the adjustment application

Temporary Resident Card (Form I-688), for special agricultural workers or legalization applicants granted temporary residence, provided it was valid during the​ ​last ​claimed date of entry on the ​adjustment​ application​

Border Crossing Card (Form I-586 or Form DSP-150​), provided it was valid on the date of last claimed entry.​

Plane tickets evidencing travel to the United States, or other corroborating evidence, when an Arrival/Departure Record is not required in the following situations:

  • a ​Canadian ​citizen admitted as a visitor for business, visitor for pleasure, or who was permitted to directly tr​ansit through the United States;​
  • a ​nonimmigrant residing in the British Virgin Islands who was admitted only to the U.S. Virgin Islands as a visitor for business or pleasure​;​
  • ​a Mexican ​n​ational admitted with ​a B-1/B-2 Visa and Border Crossing Card ​(Form DSP-150) ​at a land or sea ​port of entry​ as a visitor for business or pleasure ​for a period of 30 days to trave​l within 25 miles of the border;
  • a ​Mexican ​n​ational in possession of a ​Mexican diplomatic or official passport.

Waved through at port of entry

A wave through is when you present yourself for inspection, but the inspector waves you through the U.S.-Mexico or U.S-Canada land border, and allows you to enter the U.S. without asking any questions or checking your travel documents.  You must present a credible claim and submit supporting evidence, such as​ ​third party ​affidavits ​from those with personal knowledge about your wave through admission.

​Parole

In some situations, you may receive a grant of parole to enter the U.S. This is a temporary, discretionary act and is not an admission. Without determining whether you may be admitted to the U.S., the immigration officer may parole you in for deferred inspection or due to urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefits.

Parole in Place may also be issued to certain foreign nationals present without admission or parole, such as ​to a spouse, child, or parent of an ​a​ctive ​d​uty member of the U.S. ​a​rmed ​f​orces, a member in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, or someone who previously served in the U.S. ​armed forces​ or the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.

2. You must properly file an adjustment of status application.​

The Form I-485 must be filed with USCIS in accordance with ​the ​form ​instructions, when you are physically present in the United States. It must be signed, accompanied by the ​proper filing fee (unless a fee waiver is granted), submitted ​at the correct filing location​,  and filed when the priority date is current.

3. You must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa and an immigrant visa must be available when you file the adjustment of status application​ and at the time of final adjudication.​

Eligibility for an immigrant visa depends on the immigrant category in which you are filing for adjustment. Except for the Immediate Relative of a U.S. citizen category, the family-based and employment-based categories typically require a wait (sometimes for years or decades) before an immigrant visa becomes available.

4. You must be admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief. 

You are ineligible for adjustment if you are subject to any inadmissibility grounds listed under INA 212, such as certain criminal offenses fraud or willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain immigration benefits and unlawful presence. A waiver must be available and you must qualify for the waiver if you are inadmissible to the U.S.

​5. You must merit the favorable exercise of discretion.​

The approval of a Form I-485 application under certain categories, including INA 245(a) Adjustment, is a discretionary decision.  This means you are not entitled to adjustment even when you are eligible for it.

Besides evaluating your eligibility, the immigration officer also considers other factors such as your immigration status and history;​ family unity;​ length of residence in the United States;​ business and employment; and​ community standing and moral character.​

Statutory Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a) 

Bars to adjusting status include unlawful immigration status at the time of filing a Form I-485 (INA 245(c)(2) bar); status and nonimmigrant visa violations (INA 245c)(2) and INA 245(c)(2)(8) bars); and failure to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status when you would otherwise be eligible for employment-based immigration (INA 245(c)(7) bar). There are, however, exceptions and exemptions.

Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Because there are various bars and inadmissibility grounds to prevent AOS, as well as exemptions and waivers available, you need to consult an immigration attorney before you file a Form I-485 application to adjust to permanent resident status.

To learn more, read our related article, Adjusting to Permanent Resident Status Under INA 245(a): Bars, Exceptions and Exemptions.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Approval of Form I-212 + Grant of Immigrant Visa= A True Success Story

A U.S. citizen and his permanent resident sister consulted me about their mother’s immigrant visa case, after the U.S. Consulate found her inadmissible under INA 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I), i.e. illegal reentry following accrual of more than one year of unlawful presence in the United States.  With my counsel, their mother (my client) filed a Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission Into the United States, which the USCIS Field Office in Salt Lake City, Utah approved on February 17, 2017.

The I-212 approval led the U.S. Consulate to schedule the mother for a follow-up interview and issue the immigrant visa. This was her second immigrant visa application based on an approved I-130 immigrant petition her U.S. citizen son filed for her.

Ten years ago, the U.S. Consulate denied her first immigrant visa application upon finding her inadmissible under INA 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), i.e. accrual of unlawful presence of one year or more in the United States prior to departing the country. Because she had no qualifying relative (U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent) to be eligible for the Form I-601 [INA § 212 (a)(9)(B)(v)] unlawful presence waiver, she had to wait 10 years for that bar to expire. After waiting a decade to file her second immigrant visa application, she was shocked to hear she was still permanently barred under INA 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I).

The mother’s description of her re-entry into the United States — following accrual of unlawful presence of more than one year — indicated she was “waved through” at a U.S. border checkpoint, even though she lacked proper travel documents. In general, this means the person entered the United States as a passenger in a car after an immigration officer waved the car through the port of entry.

I counseled the family on two different paths the mother could take to obtain the immigrant visa: (a) file a motion to reconsider with the U.S. Consulate, requesting it find that the wave through counted as a lawful admission and was not an illegal entry to trigger the permanent bar under INA 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I); OR (b) file a Form I-212 application to be excused from the permanent bar.

Because the mother lacked objective evidence of a wave through, the family chose to file a Form I-212 application with USCIS instead of a motion to reconsider with the U.S. Consulate.

The applicant must be outside the U.S. for 10 years before she may file a Form I-212 to be excused from a section 212(a)(9)(C)(i)((I) bar. Luckily, my client had already completed the 10 years while she was waiting for the unlawful presence bar to run. After several discussions with the family, I determined there were sufficient favorable factors to get an I-212 approval.

I worked extensively with the family to prepare their written testimonies and gather supporting documentary evidence to prove their mother regretted her past immigration violations, has good moral character, and did not pose a threat to the American community. I also counseled them on how to establish that her denial of admission would cause unusual hardships to her as well as to her family in the United States. In addition, I prepared a legal memorandum outlining the facts and procedural history, citing to the evidence, and discussing why the mother deserved the waiver based on case precedents, statutory law, and existing policies.

While the Form I-212 application remained pending, I sent a follow-up letter to the USCIS Field Office,  requesting approval and including additional evidence of the hardships the U.S. citizen son, in particular, was suffering due to his mother’s absence from the United States.

After several months had passed, the sister called to ask me whether there were any additional steps to take to get the USCIS Field Office to issue a decision.  I began to explain the various ways  (including seeking Congressional assistance) until she stopped me mid-sentence and started screaming with joy. She had just received a message from her brother stating he received the I-212 approval notice!

The mother’s follow-up interview with the U.S. Consulate occurred in April 2017, and shortly after she was issued the immigrant visa. After 13 long years of separation, she may now finally reunite with her family in the United States.

The brother and sister live in different U.S. states,  and their mother lives in a South American country. Although we communicated by telephone and email and never met in person during the course of representation, we developed a strong, trust-based relationship, which contributed to a favorable outcome. This is a true success story for Dyan Williams Law PLLC and for my client and her family.

Preparing approvable Form I-212 applications are among our main areas of expertise. Clients benefit from the advice we give in filing Form I-212 requests to lawfully re-enter the United States following a removal order or other immigration violation.

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
dw@dyanwilliamslaw.com

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Potential Solutions for Visa Refusal or Visa Denial

Some visa refusals and visa denials are proper, such as when you fail to provide the requested documents to prove visa eligibility or when you are inadmissible to the U.S. due to past actions. But when the decision is improper or can be overcome, you may take remedial action if you still want to come to the U.S.

A consular officer’s decision to deny or issue a visa is not subject to judicial review, based on the doctrine of consular non-reviewability. Because consular officers have so much discretion in issuing visa decisions, it’s especially important to address complications from the get-go.

When you’re faced with a visa refusal or denial, your potential solutions include:

1. Refiling for the Nonimmigrant Visa in Section 214(b) Situations

There is no waiver to overcome the INA 214(b) ground of ineligibility (failure to overcome presumption of immigrant intent) in nonimmigrant visa cases. But the finding is not permanent, which means you may later establish nonimmigrant intent by showing a considerable change in circumstances.

When your nonimmigrant visa (e.g. B-1/B-2 visitor visa or F-1/M-1 student visa) is denied due to failure to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, you will need to reapply for the visa and, at the visa interview, present new, persuasive evidence of strong ties to your home country.

To avoid multiple visa refusals under section 214(b), you must build strong family roots, property ownership, employment ties, and other connections to your country that you cannot abandon and will cause you to depart the U.S. before your authorized stay expires.

In 214(b) visa refusal cases, you should not reapply for the B-1/B-2 visa, for example, until your personal, professional, and financial circumstances have changed significantly. Owning a business, investing in property, having a well-paid, steady job, or starting a family in your country are positive factors.

2. Requesting an Advisory Opinion (Administrative Review)

When your visa denial is based on questions of law, you may request an Advisory Opinion from the Department of State’s Visa Office in Washington D.C. The Visa Office will not review claims that the consular officer made a mistake of fact.

The Visa Office has a dedicated email channel, LegalNet, for you and/or your attorney to request a case-specific response on the interpretation or application of immigration law. An example is when a person is denied an H-1B or L-1 visa, which allows dual intent, under section 214(b) (failure to overcome presumption of immigrant intent). Another example is when a visa applicant is charged with 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain immigration benefit), even when the misrepresentation was not material and did not affect visa eligibility.

Within seven (7) business days of receiving a proper inquiry, LegalNet will provide notice that the inquiry has been received and is being processed. The complexity of the case and availability of required information affects the time frame for a substantive responses.

LegalNet will provide substantive responses only to the following types of inquiries:

  • Legal questions about a specific case when the applicant or representative has attempted to contact the consular post at least twice without receiving a final response, and where 30 days have passed since the second inquiry (unless action is required sooner to avert significant harm to the applicant)
  • Legal questions about a specific case in which the applicant or representative has received a final response from the consular post, but believes it to be wrong as a matter of law
  • Legal questions about specific cases involving T visas, U visas, Diversity visas, or adoption visas, and
  • Legal questions about specific cases involving the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The substantive response will be a summary of the advisory opinion forwarded to the consulate. Advisory opinions on applications or interpretations of law are binding on consular officers, but consular officers have sole authority to apply the law to the facts.

3. Filing a Motion to Reconsider and Rescind a Section 212(a) Inadmissibility Determination

Although there is no appeal process for a visa denial based on INA section 212(a) inadmissibility grounds, the U.S. Consulate or Embassy may reconsider its decision based on new evidence or legal arguments establishing you actually qualify for the visa.

In immigrant visa cases, the federal regulations allow  you to submit a motion to reconsider within one year of the visa denial to the consulate. No new application or filing fee is required when a timely motion is filed. Motions to reconsider must include relevant documentary evidence and legal claims to overcome the inadmissibility ground.

In nonimmigrant visa cases (except section 221(g) refusals), the only way to have your case reconsidered is to submit a new visa application and, at the visa interview, present a request to reconsider the inadmissibility finding.

It’s appropriate to file a motion to reconsider when the inadmissibility finding is based on a consular officer’s misinterpretation of the facts or law. But when the inadmissibility determination originates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), e.g. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), the Consulate will generally instruct you to contact those agencies.

4. Applying for a Waiver of Inadmissibility 

When you are truly inadmissible or you are unable to get the erroneous inadmissibility charge vacated by the Consulate, you may apply for a waiver. A waiver grant is not a travel document to enter the U.S. Rather, it allows – but does not guarantee – admission on a Canadian passport (if you are a Canadian citizen) or a visa grant by the Consulate when you are inadmissible to the U.S.

Nonimmigrant waiver 

For nonimmigrant visa applicants, the 212(d)(3) waiver excuses almost all grounds of inadmissibility listed in section 212(a). This includes health-related grounds, criminal offenses, prostitution, smuggling, fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain immigration benefits, false claims to U.S. citizenship to gain benefits under federal, state or immigration law, and unlawful presence in the U.S. The only inadmissibility grounds that cannot be excused by the 212(d)(3) waiver involve security and related issues, foreign policy considerations, and participation in Nazi persecutions.

In Matter of Hranka, the Board of Immigration Appeals listed three factors that must be considered in deciding whether to grant or deny the waiver. These factors are also described in the Foreign Affairs Manual, which sets forth policies for the Department of State. They are:

  • The risk of harm to society if the applicant is admitted to the U.S.
  • The seriousness of the applicant’s prior immigration law or criminal law violations, which caused the inadmissibility.
  • The importance of the applicant’s reasons for seeking to enter the U.S.

The consular officer must recommend your nonimmigrant waiver request for approval before it is forwarded to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection for a final decision.

Immigrant waiver

For immigrant visa applicants, there are waivers for certain inadmissibility grounds, including fraud or willful misrepresentation, some criminal offenses, and unlawful presence.

You will need to determine whether a waiver is available for the specific section of law that makes you inadmissible. Even when a waiver is available, only certain immigrant visa applicants may qualify for it.

You qualify for the I-601 waiver [INA§ 212(i) waiver] of the lifetime fraud/willful misrepresentation bar under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) if you are one of the following:

1. An intended immigrant who is the spouse, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (or the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen K-visa petitioner) who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S. [NOTE: Being a parent of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child does not make you eligible for the §212(i) waiver.]

or

2. A VAWA self-petitioner who will suffer extreme hardship or whose U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or qualified alien parent or child will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S.

You qualify for the I-601 [INA§ 212(a)(9)(B)(v)] waiver of the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar if you are the spouse or son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (or the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen K-visa petitioner) who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S. [NOTE: Being a parent of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child does not make you eligible for the unlawful presence waiver.

You qualify for the I-601 [INA § 212(h)] waiver of crime-related inadmissibility grounds if you are one of the following:

1. An immigrant who is the spouse, parent, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or K visa petitioner, who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S.

2. A self-petitioning abused spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

3. Inadmissible only under prostitution grounds [sections 212(D)(i) or (D)(ii) of the INA]; you have been rehabilitated; and your admission is not contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security to the United States.

4. Inadmissible due to certain criminal activities (e.g. a crime involving moral turpitude; single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana) that occurred more than 15 years before the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status; you have been rehabilitated; and your admission is not contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the United States.

The I-601 immigrant waiver under section 212(h) of the INA excuses  you from the following criminal grounds:

1. Crimes involving moral turpitude

2. One controlled substance violation involving simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (or an equivalent amount of hashish)

3. Two or more criminal convictions (other than purely political ones) with an aggregate sentence imposed of at least five years

4. Prostitution

5. Unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution

6. Certain aliens involved in serious crimes who have asserted immunity from prosecution

The immigrant waiver is not available for all crime-related grounds of inadmissibility. In particular, persons charged with the following are not eligible for the waiver:

1. 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)[Controlled Substance Violation] – except when it relates to a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (or hashish); or

2. 212(a)(2)(C)[Controlled Substance Traffickers]

3. 212(a)(2)(G)[Foreign government officials who committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom]

4. 212(a)(2)(H)[Significant traffickers in persons/human traffickers]

5. 212(a)(2)(I)[Money laundering]

Waiver for prior removal orders (or certain immigration violations)

Advance permission to reapply for admission into the United States is needed when you are inadmissible under sections 212(a)(9)(A)(i)(e.g. expedited removal order) and (ii) (removal order by an Immigration Judge), as well as sections 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) (illegal re-entry after accruing more than one year of unlawful presence) and (II)(illegal re-entry following removal order).

When any of these inadmissibility bars apply, you need an I-212 waiver to be readmitted to the U.S. or to obtain a visa as an immigrant or nonimmigrant. For more information on these inadmissibility grounds, read our article, When do you need an I-212 Waiver (and how do you get it)?

The I-212 waiver request may be filed at any time, in conjunction with a visa application, when sections 212(a)(9)(A)(i) and (ii) apply. But when sections 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) and (II) apply and you are an immigrant visa applicant, you must be outside the U.S. and wait ten years abroad before filing  the Form I-212.  [Note: As an alternative, if you are a nonimmigrant visa applicant, you may seek a section 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver, at any time, if you are inadmissible under section 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I), i.e. unlawful presence of more than one year, in the aggregate, and subsequent reentry without admission or parole.]

A completed and signed Form I-212,  Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal, must be submitted – except in few situations, such as when filing for a nonimmigrant visa at certain U.S. consulates. The Form I-212 filing fee and sometimes a biometrics fee are required.

Consult an immigration attorney with expertise in visa refusals or denials

When your visa is refused or denied, and you still wish to come to the U.S., you need to contact an immigration attorney to evaluate your visa eligibility, verify whether the consulate has valid grounds to deny the visa, and discuss or pursue possible remedies.

For more information, read our related article, Common Reasons for Visa Refusal or Visa Denial.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States

On day 7 of his Administration, January 27, 2017, President Trump issued his third executive order on immigration, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. Of the three issued so far, this immigration order imposing a 90-day ban on “nationals of countries of particular concern,” suspending the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, and blocking Syrian refugees indefinitely is the most controversial. It led to widespread protests, outcry from some world leaders, federal court litigation, and confusion over how the order will be enforced.

Here is a description of Trump’s executive order on protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States, including the potential effects and impact: 

Authority: In the order, Trump cites to the Constitution and federal laws, such as the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) and 3 U.S.C. 301, as grounds for his presidential authority.

The president may set the policy and practices of immigration agencies and officials, in compliance with federal law set by Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

Purpose: Referring to the  September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the order notes, “State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.” It further states that amendments to the visa process, after September 11, “did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.”

The order next generalizes, “Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program.”

The order states the U.S. must not admit the following persons:

  • Those who bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles
  • Those who do not support the Constitution
  • Those who would place violent ideologies over American law
  • Those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own)
  • Those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation

Policy Highlights:

1.  90-Day Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern  (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen)

The President invoked section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), to declare that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens (nationals) from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of  the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to U.S. interests.

The order does not specifically list the “countries of particular concern.” But a reference to section 217(a)(12) (Visa Waiver Program for certain visitors), the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (signed by President Obama in December 2015, as a rider on an omnibus spending bill), and related announcements indicate they are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. The White House has confirmed these seven countries are affected by the temporary ban.

The order suspends entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of the order. The exceptions are foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may also, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.

The order explains the 90-day suspension is to “reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period,” prioritize resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and implement adequate standards to bar foreign terrorists or criminals from entering the U.S.

The President instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to determine the information needed from any country to ensure visas, admission, or other immigration benefits are not issued to persons posing a security or public-safety threat. They have 30 days to submit a report on the results of their review to the President. The report must include the Secretary’s determination of what information is needed to issue visas and other immigration benefits, plus a list of countries that do not provide adequate information.

The Secretary of State must then request all foreign governments that do not provide the required information on their nationals to start doing so within 60 days. After the 60-day period, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, must provide a list of countries that do not provide the information requested. The President may then issue another proclamation prohibiting the entry of nationals from those countries (except persons with diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas), until compliance occurs.

2. Implement Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs

The order calls for a uniform screening standard and procedure, including:

  • in-person interviews for all applicants;
  • a database of identity documents provided by applicants;
  • amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent;
  • a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be;
  • a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest;
  • a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.

3. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017 

The order suspends refugee admissions for 120 days.  During this period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure refugee status is not granted to those who pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement these procedures.

Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process must first complete these revised procedures before they are admitted to the U.S.  After the 120-day period expires, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have determined the additional procedures are enough to protect national security.

Once refugee admissions resume, priority will be given to refugee claims made by persons on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided the religion is a minority religion in the person’s country of nationality. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation that would assist with such prioritization.

The order bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. It states, ” the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States” and suspends their entry until the President determines sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure their admission is consistent with the national interest.

The order adds, “the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States,” and suspends their entry until the President determines additional admissions would be in the national interest.

During the suspension, refugees may be admitted on a case-by-case basis, but only if it is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the U.S. to abide by a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to national security.

The order also seeks to give state and local jurisdictions a role in deciding the placement or settlement of refugees in their states and cities.

4. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System

The order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

5.  Visa Interview Security

The order suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program (not the Visa Waiver Program). The VIWP allowed consular officers to exempt low-risk/no-risk applicants from in-person interviews if they met certain criteria, including seeking to renew their temporary visas within a year of expiration.

Effects and Impact

1. Temporary banning of nationals from certain countries

The Trump Administration insists the temporary suspension is not a “Muslim ban,” but a temporary halt to better prevent  terrorists attacks in the United States.

Section 212 (f) of the Immigration & Nationality Act allows the President to suspend entry or impose travel restrictions in the national interest. It states: 

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

This is the first time a President, however, has used the statute to ban an entire nation from designated countries. The non-discrimination provision of 8 U.S.C. 1152(a)(1)(A) also states, “no person shall…be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.”

Because the White House says the order aims to stop terrorist attacks, which is in the national interest, critics question why certain countries are not on the list and others are.  Of the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11th terrorist attack, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two from United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon. No fatal terrorist attacks were carried out by nationals from the seven countries targeted by Trump’s ban.

The Trump Administration pointed out the seven countries on the list originated from a law that Obama signed, in which nationals of or persons who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria Libya, Somalia, and Yemen are prohibited from using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and must obtain visas to enter the U.S. The VWP allows citizens of more than 30 countries to visit the U.S. without a visa, as long as they are eligible (e.g. have no immigration violations) and seek entry as a tourist for 90 days or less.

Trump’s order banning entry of nationals from certain countries – even when they have valid visas or entry documents – is unprecedented. Although the suspension is temporary, the order indicates it could become permanent if the countries do not provide adequate information  on their nationals, as requested by the U.S. government. The Administration has also said the list could expand to include other countries.

War-torn countries with dysfunctional governments are unlikely to have or to hand over reliable information or public records on their nationals. Yet the order allows for a Presidential proclamation to continue a ban on nationals from countries that do not provide requested information.

Trump’s order went into effect as soon as he signed it. Airlines and immigration agencies were confused about how to enforce the ban. To date, the latest information is as follows:

U.S. citizens. Persons who hold a U.S. passport – whether as a natural-born or naturalized citizen – will be admitted to the country. The U.S. Customs & Border Protection, however, has authority to question citizens, especially if they have traveled to designated countries.

Dual citizens. Persons who hold a passport from a designated country and a passport from a non-designated country may choose how they present themselves for entry. Dual nationals should present the passport from the non-designated country, with a valid visa, to be admitted to the U.S. But they may be subject to questioning by the CBP, especially if they have traveled to designated countries.

Lawful permanent residents. Green card holders, even when they hold passports from designated countries, will be admitted to the U.S., absent derogatory information. They may, however, be subject to secondary inspection by the CBP just as they have always been.

Trump’s order bans immigrants (permanent residents/green card holders) from the countries of concern, but states a waiver may be issued in the national interest. In a statement issued on January 29, DHS Secretary John Kelly provided a blanket waiver stating, “I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest.” Kelly added, “Accordingly, absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.”

Nonimmigrants from designated countries. Persons from designated countries will not be allowed to enter the U.S. as a visitor or in any other nonimmigrant visa category (except diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas). They may withdraw their application for admission and avoid an expedited removal order.

2. Heightened screening of applicants for visas and all other immigration benefits

Trump’s order includes revisions to the screening standard and procedures for persons applying for immigration benefits (e.g. nonimmigrant visas,  immigrant visas, and permanent resident status). It involves amendments to the application forms to detect fraud and malicious intent.

The U.S. immigration agencies and State Department currently use stringent screening methods and require heavy documentation before they issue immigration benefits. Fingerprints are taken and background checks are run before the benefit is granted.

The Form DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-260 immigrant visa application, and Form I-485 application for permanent residence include screening questions related to the person’s identity, travel history, immigration violations, and criminal history. They also include security and background questions, such as whether the person has ever been a member of a terrorist organization or committed any terrorist activity.

Adding more questions to the application forms is unlikely to reveal material information on the person’s propensity or intent to commit terrorist acts. The questions should also not result in discrimination based on protected grounds (e.g religious beliefs) or elicit irrelevant information (e.g. only naturalization applicants are required to support the Constitution).

A review of attacks linked to radicalized Muslims in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, does not indicate a high correlation between lack of visa screening and terrorist attacks:

  • 2016 – Omar Mateen shot dead 49 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Although his parents were from Afghanistan, he was born in New York.
  • 2015 – Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik shot dead 14 people at an office in San Bernardino, Ca., before they were killed. He was born in Chicago to parents from Pakistan. She was born in Pakistan and raised mostly in Saudi Arabia.
  • 2015 – Mohammad Abdulazeez opened fire at two military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, Tenn., killing five U.S. military personnel. He was a naturalized American who was born in Kuwait to parents who were Jordanian and Palestinian.
  • 2013 – Two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carried out the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three. Tamerlan was born in the Soviet Union (now southern Russia), and Dzokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan. They were admitted to the U.S. on visitor visas as young children, along with their parents, before they were granted asylum and then permanent residence.
  • 2009 – Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, shot dead 13 in Ft. Hood, Texas. Hasan was born in Virginia to Palestinian parents who had immigrated from the West Bank.
  • 2009 – Abdulhakim Muhammad shot and killed an Army private at a recruiting center in Little Rock. He was born in Memphis to a Christian family, but converted to Islam and changed his name from Carlos Bledsoe.

Extreme vetting, as Trump calls it, could slow down visa and green card processing, deter family reunification, affect U.S. businesses in need of foreign national talent, and discourage travel to the U.S. that benefits the economy. Immediately after the order was issued, U.S. Consulates stopped processing visas,  cancelled visa interviews, and revoked visas when the applicant is a national of a designated country. USCIS also suspended green card processing for persons affected by the executive order.

3. Restricting refugee admissions

The 120-day suspension of the refugee program and indefinite ban on entry of all Syrian refugees has been met with strong opposition. Refugees have not been linked to terrorists attacks in the U.S., as the executive order seems to claim.

Refugees are among the most vulnerable groups in the world. They must show they have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, and/or political opinion in their country to obtain refugee status in the U.S.

Refugees undergo thorough background checks  and heavy scrutiny to be admitted to the country. They face recurrent vetting (background checks) throughout the refugee screening process. Those who are cleared to come to the U.S. must apply for a green card within one year, which requires a new cycle of vetting. Because rigorous screening already exists for refugees, the ban is criticized for being overreaching and discriminatory.

According to the executive order, priority will be given to applicants who are suffering religious-based prosecution, but only if they are minorities in their country. Trump said the move would protect Christians in Muslim-majority countries, which critics say amounts to religious discrimination.

Giving more power to states and localities to determine the placement of refugees in their jurisdiction is also subject to legal challenges.  Based on reports that one person involved in the November 2015 Paris terror attacks was carrying a Syrian passport (which may have been fake or stolen, according to subsequent reports), 31 governors said they opposed letting Syrian refugees into their states. While states have some discretion as to whether their agencies participate in the federally funded Refugee Resettlement Program,  they may not refuse assistance to refugees based on race, religion, nationality, sex, or political opinion. They may also not prevent refugees from moving into their state.

4. Tracking entries and exits

The biometric entry-exit screening system aims to track foreign visitors’ arrival and departure using information like fingerprints. Such a system was first required by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act signed by President Clinton in 1996. It was further recommended by the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission in 2004.

The “entry” part of the system is in place. Persons who enter the U.S. on a visa or the Visa Waiver Program normally provide biometric information (fingerprints and a digital photograph) to U.S. border officials. Outside of a few pilot programs, travelers face no biometric exit screening.

CBP previously issued a paper Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record), which was to be turned into the commercial carrier or CBP upon departure. CBP switched to scanning a traveler’s passport, generating an electronic arrival record with data elements found on the current paper Form I-94, and making the electronic I-94 available on its website. CBP records departures electronically via manifest information provided by the carrier or its own system.

In a fiscal year 2016 report to Congress, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, announced CBP would redouble its efforts to complete the biometric entry/exit system, and  begin implementing biometric exit, starting at the highest volume U.S. airports, in 2018.

This report noted that about 99% of nonimmigrant visitors arriving at air and sea ports of entry complied with the terms of their admission. It added the biometric exit program is not limited to collecting biometric information from a departing passenger, but must also help ensure the passenger actually departs the U.S.

The report stated that obstacles included existing  infrastructure at U.S. airports, which did not support biometric exit control procedures. Thus, “deploying an effective biometric exit system includes designing and developing a new process for verifying departure where none exists today and doing so in a very complex and time-sensitive operational environment.”

For the system to work properly, it needs to cover all land, air, and sea ports of entry, which is a major undertaking. Trump’s order to expedite the entry-exit system is a continuation of prior Administrations’ efforts.

5. Suspending the Visa Interview Waiver Program

The suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program means consular officers must interview all visa applicants, regardless of whether they previously met the criteria for a visa grant without an interview. Children under age 14, applicants over age 80, and applicants whose visas recently expired may no longer obtain visa renewals without an in-person interview at the Consulate.

In-person interviews for low-risk/no-risk applicants could make even routine applications more complicated and time consuming and create bottlenecks at U.S. Consulates handling frequent visitors. Discouraging tourism and visits to the U.S. by law-abiding persons may result from this new inconvenience.

Conclusion

The 90-day bar on entry of nationals from affected countries, 120-day suspension of the refugee program, and indefinite ban on Syrian refugees triggered fear and uncertainty among immigrant groups. After the executive order was issued, nationals of designated countries with valid visas and refugees who had completed the screening process were prevented from boarding flights or denied entry to the U.S.

Although the White House deems the suspension as temporary, the executive order states all the timelines may be extended by a new Presidential proclamation.  In the meantime, the situation is in flux due to legal challenges and the Administration’s backing down on certain aspects. Dozens of federal court lawsuits have been filed to challenge the bans. Attorney Generals of several states, including Minnesota, Washington, New York, Virginia and Massachusetts, are also taking legal action against the ban, calling it unconstitutional.

On January 28, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York was the first to issue an emergency stay of removal, preventing the Department of Homeland Security from removing individuals with approved refugee status, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen legally authorized to enter the United States.

On February 3, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Seattle, issued a restraining order temporarily blocking the ban on entry to the United States, nationwide. Visa holders and refugees from the designated countries may be admitted to the U.S. while the court order is in effect. The White House vowed to fight it.

The executive order stops short of Trump’s campaign call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Still, the ban on entire nations from designated countries has been met with legal battles, massive protests and ongoing criticism. For the executive order to come close to accomplishing its stated purpose, it will have to first survive the backlash.

For information on Trump’s other executive orders on immigration, read:

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

Effects & Impact of Trump’s Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Photo by: Dimitry