The January 27 Executive Order (EO) “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” remains in effect, and will continue to impact the ability of nonimmigrant nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (“EO-7 countries”) to travel to the U.S. Although, after a series of Federal court orders, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is no longer routinely barring admission of U.S. permanent residents from these countries, the admission ban remains in effect for them with respect to nonimmigrant visas. That includes H-1b professionals, L-1 corporate transfers, F-1 students, J-1 exchange participants, E-2 investor, O-1 extraordinary ability, K-1/K-3 fiancée/spouse visas and all other non-diplomatic categories.
DHS will not differentiate between nonimmigrants seeking admission for the first time and those who have entered previously or who have been living in the U.S. for years. The EO also does not exempt nationals of the EO-7 countries who are dual nationals of a third country not subject to the prohibition.
The EO does not apply – and may not apply – to U.S. citizens who are dual nationals of any of the EO-7 countries. These individuals must, of course, present their U.S. passports at immigration inspection.
The EO-7 travel ban, as imposed, will remain in effect for 90 days, until April 27, 2017.
The EO has no effect on the lawful presence of EO-7 country nationals who are currently in the U.S. based on lawful admissions prior to January 27 and whose authorized periods of stay have not yet expired. Any travel abroad, even to the U.S. or Canada, will subject these individuals to the entry bar.
The EO requires a consular interview for all visa applicants, whether for original or extended visa stamps, and suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program. Applicants for visa renewals may no longer drop their documents off with a consulate and receive a paper adjudication. This policy applies to citizens of all countries, not only those from the EO-7.
Of greatest concern is the pressure the mandatory visa interview process will have on wait times for an appointment and on post-interview visa processing times. The order provides for the expansion of the State Department’s Consular Fellows Program, which employs non-Foreign Service workers in visa adjudication jobs at consulates requiring Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Russian, or French, language skills. How long it will take to ramp up hiring and training, and whether Congress must first appropriate expanded funding remain open questions.
As of this morning, wait times at consulates in India and China, which in the recent past have experienced lengthy visa scheduling delays, don’t look to bad:
Wait Times for Visa Interviews in India”
• Hyderabad: 9 calendar days (+2 business days processing)
• New Delhi: 4 calendar days (+2 business days processing)
• Kokata: 13 calendar days (+5 business days processing)
• Mumbai: 16 calendar days (+2 business days processing)
• Chennai: 21 calendar days (+3 business days processing)
Wait Times for Visa Interviews in China:
• Beijing: 1 calendar day (+1 business day processing)
• Shanghai: 7 calendar days (+3 business days processing)
• Chengdu: 7 calendar days (+1 business day processing)
• Shenyang: 7 calendar days (+1 business day processing)
• Guangzhou: 11 calendar days (+2 business day processing)
Wait times change on a daily basis, depending on demand and availability of consular staff. With the President’s stated opposition to skilled worker programs in at least some contexts, it is certainly within the authority of the State Department to make the visa application process more or less difficult, with longer or shorter wait times.
We will keep an eye on these dates and advise of any notable shifts.