On 25th January 2017, the media reported President Trump’s intention to sign executive orders prohibiting the issue of visas to individuals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Furthermore, it was reported that President Trump would introduce a ban on the entry of refugees into the United States, with an exception for religious minorities fleeing persecution, until more comprehensive vetting procedures are in place.

While little is known of President Trump’s plans at this stage, it would appear at first blush that the proposed executive orders are wholly unnecessary. Under the current system, individuals from the aforementioned countries are ineligible to travel to the US through the Visa Waver Program/Electronic System for Travel Authorization and must apply for a visa in order to enter the US. Visa applicants are subject to a two-stage vetting process; they are subject to scrutiny by Consular staff prior to the issue of a visa and are subject to further scrutiny by US Customs and Border Control staff when they arrive in the US. US officials undertake a complex assessment of a person’s character and fitness when determining eligibility to enter the US, involving consideration of an individual’s criminal record, exposure to firearms/chemical training and group membership.

Throughout the process, the onus is on the visa applicant to prove to the satisfaction of US authorities that he or she is fit to enter the US. If Consular staff or US Customs and Border Protection Staff have any reservations of any kind regarding the background, character or fitness of the individual in question, they are at liberty to simply decline the visa application or deny entry to the US.

Similarly, refugees identified for US resettlement are already extensively vetted and screened. If any concerns are raised regarding a refugee’s background, the individual in question is denied entry to the US.

Under the circumstances, it is difficult to see what the proposed executive orders could possibly achieve, given the extensive vetting procedures already in place. Indeed, while the US Government’s commitment to safeguarding national security should be applauded, the proposed executive orders are a blunt instrument to tackle a very complex problem. An outright ban on the issue of visas to nationals of designated countries will discriminate against honest, law-abiding citizens who can prove, to the satisfaction of US authorities that they pose no risk to the US, if given the opportunity to do so. It may prevent foreign investors from investing in the US, it may prevent foreign nationals from visiting relatives in the US and boosting the US economy and it may prevent US employers from recruiting employees in the region to fill skill-shortages in the US workforce, pursuant to the H-1B visa. Similarly, a ban on refugees will disadvantage some of the world’s poorest people, while they are at their most vulnerable. If the executive orders are found to discriminate against a particular religion, they may be unconstitutional.

At Davies Legal, we offer a comprehensive range of visa application services to suit your immigration needs. Call now to hear how we can assist in putting forward the strongest possible case on your behalf and for a free, no obligation quote.

Published: 14th February 2017

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