Update on Executive Order regarding entry ban to U.S. for individuals from certain countries

February 6, 2017

To our International Students:

There have been a number of developments over the past few days in response to the Presidential Executive Order. While there continues to be uncertainty and pending legal challenges to the Executive Order, the ISO is providing this update on both the current state of the provisions of the Executive Order and a link to a new “Major Immigration Updates” page on the ISO website that will serve as a central location for information related to Executive Orders and any other significant immigration or visa issues impacting international students at MIT.

UPDATES ON EXECUTIVE ORDER COMPONENTS (as of February 5, 2017)

As you probably have read, the federal court in Massachusetts did not extend the Temporary Restraining Order issued on January28 and now expired. However, a federal District Court in the State of Washington entered an order last Friday that suspended the terms of Executive Order. This order is being applied nationwide to allow travel for those from the 7 countries identified in the Executive Order, if travel was allowed otherwise. This order is being appealed and could be overturn as early as this evening.

With the current state of affairs, we are advising that any individual from one of the 7 designated countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen – NOT travel outside the U.S. for the foreseeable future given the ever-changing legal situation. 

In the meantime, the following are updates from various government agencies that implement the provisions of the Executive Order – including the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). The following are clarifications that have been provided in recent days regarding, specifically, the visa restrictions and travel/entry ban (and are subject to change): 

  • U.S. Citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders)
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) confirmed on the USDHS website that U.S. Citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (those with valid I-551 / Green Card) are NOT subject to the terms of the Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, even if they may hold citizenship, nationality, or were born in one of the 7 designated countries. These individuals are not subject to the travel/entry ban. 
  • Dual Nationals
    For those individuals who have status (citizen/national/born) from a country listed in the Executive Order and from a non-listed country – are advised caution when traveling. USCBP does, however, confirm on their website that “Travelers are being treated according to the travel document they present.” It is recommended that individuals who hold citizenship from one of the listed countries and another country should consult an experienced immigration attorney prior to any travel outside of the U.S. 
  • Individuals Not Named in the Executive Order 
    If you are a citizen/national/born in any other country not named in the Executive Order, the visa restrictions and travel ban do not apply at this time as reported on the USCBP website. The terms of the Executive Order do provide the ability to add countries to the ban list in the future. On February 2, 2017, the U.S. Department of State informed the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that there are no current documents in process to expand the countries subject to visa revocations or travel ban other than the 7 countries listed in the Executive Order. Please note that additional security procedures or extended processing times can apply to any individual, therefore any individual should plan accordingly prior to travel abroad, especially if that involves applying for a new entry visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad in order to return to the U.S. Please expect longer processing times both at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate as well as at port-of-entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 
  • Visa Interview Waiver Program Eliminated
    One component of the Executive Order included the elimination of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which in the past would allow an individual to mail-in an application for renewal of visas at U.S. Embassies/Consulates if the visa were in in certain status, rather than having to schedule an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. The elimination of this program will likely lead to longer processing times for visa applications given that all applicants will require an interview. Please plan accordingly. 
  • Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System
    The Executive Order requires the “expedited completion” of a Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System, which was already in development. Once in place, the system will apply to anyone – from all countries in all visa statuses – entering the U.S. This tracking system will continue development regardless of any court restriction on the Executive Order. 
  • US State Department Lifts Provisional Revocation of Visas
    On February 4, 2017, the U.S. Department of State has confirmed that the provisional revocation of visas has been lifted for citizens/nationals/born of the 7 countries designated by the Executive order; applications at U.S. Embassy/Consulate posts abroad will be accepted and processing continues.
  • USCIS Resumes Processing of Applications Filed at USCIS Service CentersWith the court order, USCIS has confirmed [PDF] it has resumed processing applications received at USCIS Service Centers (including change of status applications, H-1B petitions, and F-1 OPT applications).

NEW ISO WEBPAGE ON EXECUTIVE ORDER RESOURCES
This new page will be the central location for any information, resources, and ISO communication on major immigration issues that affect our international students at MIT. Currently, this will be the depository on information related to new Executive Orders, but this will be used for other major immigration announcements in the future.

I need to repeat that this is a very fluid situation and the status of the current Executive Order on visa processing at U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad, entry to the U.S., and benefit processing at USCIS, can change at any time in response to court actions or further action by the President, the federal agencies or Congress.. The ISO will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates. We will continue to update the new ISO webpage so that you will have a central resource to access; we will also email the community as appropriate.

If you have any questions regarding your specific situation, whether it be travel concerns, visa applications, or applications for employment benefits (F-1 OPT), we advise that you contact your ISO Advisor.

Thank you all for your patience and understanding during what we know is an anxious time. We are heartened by the support of the entire MIT Community to all of our international students and scholars as we are all experiencing the uncertainty together.

With best regards,

David C. Elwell
Associate Dean and Director
MIT International Students Office