DHS Announces Expansion of Travel Restrictions

By CIS on February 1, 2020

Citing concerns about inadequate identity management, unsatisfactory information sharing and threats to security, DHS has announced new entry restrictions for citizens of six countries, to take effect February 22nd . DHS and State Department officials say that as many as 12,400 immigrant visa applicants could be affected (based on 2018 issuances from those countries). The policy applies to anyone who has not been issued a visa within the next three weeks.

Citizens of the following countries are now potentially subject to the restrictions (in addition to the seven other countries already restricted):

Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria - all immigrant visas are restricted
Sudan and Tanzania - only lottery immigrant visas are restricted

Visas already issued will remain valid (presumably even if travel takes place after the restrictions go into effect), and applicants from these countries will automatically be considered for a waiver (whether they ask for one or not).

Contrary to the way the restrictions are often characterized, this is not a “travel ban.” About half of all applicants have qualified for waivers to the restrictions based on personal circumstances. The number of applicants receiving waivers can be expected to increase under another policy change announced yesterday; now all applicants will be automatically considered for waivers, a change from current policy, where applicants had to request consideration.

Jessica Vaughan, the Center’s director of policy studies, commented, “Citizens of listed countries can still obtain long and short-term "temporary" visas, including work and student programs. This begs the question - if the country's identification security and risk profile is a problem, shouldn't we also bar temporary applicants, where scrutiny is even more cursory?”

Acting DHS Secretary Wolf spoke to the need for the restrictions, “It is logical and essential to thoroughly screen and vet everyone seeking to travel or immigrate to the United States. However, there are some countries from whom the U.S. does not receive the necessary information about its travelers and, as a result, pose a national security or public safety risk that warrants tailored travel restrictions.”

Five of the six - all but Kyrgyzstan - have been listed by federal immigration officials as also being "recalcitrant" or "at risk of being designated recalcitrant", that is, failing to readily accept their citizens back after deportation.

The administration makes the restrictions as permitted by Section 212(f) of the INA which states, in pertinent part:

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.

Read more: U.S. Invokes Visa Sanctions Against Six Nations