On Sunday, September 24, the White House unveiled a new set of travel restrictions for eight countries: North Korea, Syria, Iran, Chad, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Venezuela. The restrictions for each country vary from total bans to bans only on certain government officials. I've listed the countries below along with their travel restrictions, from most restrictive to least restrictive:
- North Korea: complete suspension of all nonimmigrant and immigrant visas;
- Syria: complete suspension of all nonimmigrant and immigrant visas;
- Iran: complete suspension of all nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, with the exception of student and cultural exchange visas; subject to more enhanced screening;
- Chad: all immigrant visas suspended, business/pleasure travel visas suspended;
- Yemen: all immigrant visas suspended, business/pleasure travel visas suspended;
- Libya: all immigrant visas suspended, business/pleasure travel visas suspended;
- Somalia: all immigrant visas suspended; nonimmigrants subject to more enhanced screening; and
- Venezuela: certain government officials banned from entering country; subject to more enhanced screening.
It is important to note the difference between immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. The process of acquiring an immigrant visa is very difficult — and much more complicated — than the process for obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. Immigrant visas are essentially limited to family-sponsorship, employer-sponsorship, and the controversial diversity visa lottery. Immigrant visas put the foreigner into a path toward citizenship and are meant for people who are staying permanently in the United States. In 2016, the United States issued a total of 617,752 new immigrant visas.
Nonimmigrant visas, on the other hand, cover an enormous number of categories and represent the overwhelming majority of total visas issued to travel to the United States. They include everything from temporary workers, to students, to ship crews, to simply travelers for business and pleasure. Almost every international traveler entering the United States will need a nonimmigrant visa for short- to long-term visits to the country (except those from countries in the Visa Waiver Program). In 2016, the United States issued a total 10,381,491 new nonimmigrant visas.
There will almost certainly be controversy and debate regarding this third attempt by the Trump administration to restrict the travel of people from certain high-risk countries, although this particular executive order is much more refined than its predecessors; both his January and March executive orders were eventually blocked by federal courts.
How many travelers likely will be affected by the new proclamation? This can be estimated using 2016 visa data. The table below lists the number of persons who obtained visas covered by the proclamation in 2016 and the percentage of travelers affected from those countries. This information comes from the State Department's annual "Report of the Visa Office".