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Abundance of Caution: Mitigating Risks Associated with US travel ban

As is being widely reported in the media, implementation of the US Executive Order restricting travel from seven majority Muslim countries is causing a range of travel disruptions and issues.  Multiple sources report that travelers have been refused entry to the US at airports or were prevented from boarding flights to the US, including those holding valid US visas and Green Cards. Nationals of seven countries are impacted: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Given the uncertainty around implementation of this Executive Order, organizations with exposure should exercise an abundance of caution.  Recommendations include:

  • Account for the location and status of all staff/travelers from any of the impacted countries who may be traveling to/working in the US now or in the near future.
  • Consider suspending travel by impacted personnel working in the US on H1B or other visas to avoid the risk of not being allowed re-entry. A number of US companies including Google have reportedly adopted this stance.
  • Impacted staff/travelers currently outside the US should be prepared to be denied boarding of flights to the US or be refused entry to the US, even if they possess a valid US visa or Green Card. Contingency plans should be developed for providing short term accommodation in third countries for these travelers who may not be able to return to their home country and barred from re-entry to the US.  These travelers may also require assistance in obtaining or extending visas in third countries.

The US Department of Homeland has clarified somewhat the impact on Legal Permanent Residents from the impacted countries. According to the DHS statement, Green Card holders should be allowed entry to the US unless they are deemed a “serious threat to public safety” following a “case by case” evaluation.

This situation continues to develop. Over the weekend, administration officials suggested that additional countries could be added to the list of those facing travel restrictions — potentially with no notice as in the case of the initial Executive Order.  And countries impacted may implement reciprocal travel restrictions; the Iranian government has already signaled they may enact such measures and other countries may follow suit.

Given how quickly this situation is evolving, awareness is critical. Organizations with impacted staff/travelers should monitor the situation closely through media, travel assistance providers and other sources, and consider consulting immigration legal counsel to help resolve specific issues.

The original post was updated January 30th to reflect the DHS statement on entry of US Legal Permanent Residents from impacted countries.