Donald Trump announced revision to the travel ban on Sunday 24th September.
US visa ban expanded, but students mostly allowed to travel

The USA has expanded its travel ban to include three additional countries, but has issued specific details for each nation affected and for the most part excluded student visas from the ban, although additional vetting may be implemented.

In revisions announced yesterday to the previous Executive Order issued in March, the USA has added Chad, North Korea and Venezuela to the list of restricted nations, but has removed the previously listed Sudan.


However, in the revised order, which provides breakdowns per restricted country, only North Korea and Syria have complete bans affecting all immigrant and non-immigrant visas. For all other listed nations, student visas will remain valid routes of entry, although students will be subject to additional vetting.


With regards to Iran, which is by far the largest supplier of students to the USA among the list of affected nations, the fact sheet issued by the White House states, "Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals from Iran as immigrants and as non-immigrants is suspended, except that entry by nationals of Iran under valid student (F and M) and exchange (J) visas is not suspended, although such individuals will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements."


In the most recent Open Doors report for the 2015/16 academic year, there were 12,269 Iranian students in the USA, making it the 11th largest source country.


For Somalia, the document states that all entry of nationals as immigrants is suspended, "and non-immigrants travelling to the United States will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements". F-1, M-1 and J-1 visas are classified as non-immigrant visas by the Department of Homeland Security.


For Chad, Libya and Yemen, the advisory states entry as immigrants and as non-immigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2) and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas is suspended, but no mention of student visas is made. Venezuela has similar restrictions, although these only apply to "certain Venezuela government officials and their immediate family members".


The revisions come into effect on October 18, but will not apply to those already in possession of a valid visa. Unlike the previous Executive Orders, there appears to be no time limitation on the above criteria.  


In the background information to the revised travel ban, the White House advised that a worldwide review of information-sharing practices has taken place with all foreign governments considered not to be meeting the baseline information-sharing criteria given 50 days to provide an action plan.


Iraq was subject to the first travel ban issued in January, but was removed from the subsequent ban. Although Iraq remains off the restricted list, the Secretary of Homeland Security has assessed that Iraq is not meeting the baseline criteria and as such recommends that nationals "be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if they pose risks to the national security or public safety of the United States".


In a tweet announcing the revision, President Donald Trump said, "Making America safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet."


The March Executive Order was challenged and suspended, before the Supreme Court allowed partial implementation of the travel ban until a full hearing, due to be held on October 10.


Earlier this month, the American Council on Education (ACE) issued a joint amicus brief to the Supreme Court in partnership with 29 other associations, in which it highlighted the US$32.8 billion value of the international education sector to the country and the potential damage of the continued ban.


Despite the revisions to the Executive Order, Nafsa: Association of International Educators opposed the restrictions, arguing that they could create problems for short-term study trips and visiting researchers, and highlighted the uncertainty in the additional vetting procedures.


Jill Welch, Executive Director of the association, said, "The newest version of the ban leaves no reliable path for legitimate travel to the United States from these eight countries, such as Syrian parents hoping to be reunited with their U.S. citizen children, an Iranian educator who wants to attend a conference in the United States or parents of students from any of the eight countries who would seek a B visa to come visit for graduation or other major events. The section of the proclamation addressing potential waivers, while welcomed, provides little comfort to those who must face the uncertain hurdle of convincing a consular officer of the legitimacy of their intended activity."


By Matthew Knott

News Editor