U.S. Immigration & Travel Policy Updates

by on September 15th, 2017

We understand the evolving U.S. immigration and visa situation has caused confusion and concern within our community of schools and candidates. We have reached out to candidates from the affected countries to offer resources and support, as well as encourage them to continue pursuing their educational goals. GMAC is also encouraging candidates and schools to leverage the GMASS database to better connect with each other.

Our graduate management education community is a wonderfully diverse and international community. GMAC’s purpose is to ensure no talent goes undiscovered, and we are committed to providing you with resources and acting in support of students pursuing graduate management education. Please refer to our resource page for international students for additional information.

You can also contact us at: customercare@mba.com or via our Contact Us page.

Most Recent Update – September 7, 2017

Settlement Reached in the Travel Ban Case

Individuals, including international students, banned from entering the United States under the Trump Administration’s first travel ban can now reapply for visas to enter the U.S. in a settlement reached by the parties (Darweesh, et al., v. Donald Trumpet al., Civil Action No. 17-CV-480). At issue was the January 27, 2017, Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (the “Executive Order”). The settlement was entered September 1, 2017.

Individuals who filed a visa application with the U.S. Department of State, applied for admission at a U.S. port of entry and were denied entry based on the Executive Order are covered under the settlement. Individuals who were kept from boarding flights and therefore did not apply for admission to the United States at a port of entry are not covered under by the settlement.

The settlement requires that the U.S. government transmit a letter to each individual denied entry due to the Executive Order as well as consider their applications for a visa and future admission to the U.S. The settlement does not provide any damages or monetary compensation and only applies to travelers denied entry who physically made it to the U.S. It is possible that those affected by the settlement may include international students enrolled at American universities who went home and were affected by the Executive Order. It is believed that the number of individuals covered by the settlement is small because it covers only those individuals who were denied entry into the U.S. in the time period between issuance of the Executive Order and a federal judge’s issuance of a temporary injunction immediately thereafter. Affected individuals will be contacted based on the contact information (e.g., email, phone, mailing address) they provided in their visa applications filed with the Department of State. They will be notified that they have three months to reapply for visas.

Separately, the second revised travel ban is scheduled for oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court next month regarding its legality.

DACA Program Rescinded

The Trump Administration announced this week that it is phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is a program that allows certain individuals who came to the United States as children, have continuously resided in the U.S., and are in school, graduated from high school or obtained a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the military, to apply for benefits. These benefits include deferral of deportation and work authorization. California and Texas have the highest numbers of DACA beneficiaries in the country, followed by New York, Illinois, and Florida. The program has not been without controversy, and recently the attorneys general of Texas and several other states threatened to initiate litigation in federal court if the Administration did not rescind the program. On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA is being rescinded and that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin a phasing out of the program.

While international students currently in F-1 status will not be directly impacted by rescission of the DACA program, institutions of higher education will feel the effect on certain members of their student body, including the affected student’s ability to access in-state tuition, financial aid, and employment when his/her DACA benefits expire. Members of the higher education community, including the American Council on Education (ACE) and Association of American Universities (AAU), have criticized the Administration’s decision to end DACA.

DACA is a program implemented in 2012 under the Obama Administration. It has provided relief from deportation to approximately 700,000–800,000 individuals who would otherwise be in the country unlawfully. Under DACA, beneficiaries removal (aka deportation from the U.S.) is deferred during the duration of the program. Once the program ends, beneficiaries revert back to their original status and may be subject to removal from the U.S. for being unlawfully present in the country. The DACA program provides recipients renewable two-year term benefits, including an employment authorization document (EAD).  According to the DHS, DACA beneficiaries will be allowed to retain both their DACA status and their EAD until they expire. DACA-issued benefits are due to expire this year, in 2018 and 2019. On a limited basis, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will adjudicate properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for EADs which were filed and accepted as of September 5, 2017. Certain pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs where beneficiaries benefits will expire between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, will be adjudicated if the renewal request is filed prior to October 5, 2017.

It is important to note that DACA beneficiaries are lawfully able to be in the U.S. and work for the duration of the program as the program is being phased out and not ended effective immediately.

Additional resources provided by DHS:

Previous U.S. Travel & Immigration Policy Updates

Suspension of Non-immigrant Visa Operations in Russia Impacts Students

On August 21, 2017, the State Department announced that—due to the Russian government’s cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia—all  nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning on August 23, 2017.  Operations will resume at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on September 1, 2017, but visa operations at U.S. consulates will remain suspended indefinitely. Because NIV interviews will be conducted only at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and due to reduced staffing levels to comply with the Russian government’s cap on personnel, NIV applicants can expect delays in their interview process as well as travel to Moscow unless they are local. NIV interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice.

For international students this means that currently scheduled appointments will be cancelled and applicants will be provided instructions on how to reschedule. The U.S. Mission began cancelling current NIV appointments countrywide on August 21.  Affected students should have received an email with a phone number to call to reschedule their interview at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow at a future date. According to the State Department’s Fact Sheet, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is planning to offer a block of visa appointments to international students in early September.

For rescheduling of NIV interviews and other questions, contact: +7 (495) 745 3388 or 8 800 100 2554 (ITFN).

To learn more about this recent update and what it means for students studying or seeking to study in the United States, click here.

Supreme Court Ruling

In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to allow partial implementation of the United States President’s executive order on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and said they would give full consideration to the matter during the October term to determine the legality of the President’s executive order. While allowing the Administration to implement portions of the executive order, the Court also narrowed the scope of the travel and refugee bans. Guidance is starting to emerge which will hopefully provide a clearer picture of what the higher education community, especially international candidates who may or are applying to U.S. schools and students presently studying in the United States can expect now that a limited version of the President’s travel ban will take effect. Bottom line is that the travel ban being implemented by the Administration appears to most directly affect individuals without a valid visa. Although having said that, the ban does not prohibit issuance of a visa during the 90-day period if the individual can demonstrate a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States, such as a university.

Executive Order

On March 6, 2017, a United States Executive Order was issued announcing updated policies restricting travel to the United States by individuals from certain countries. Of immediate concern for international students and faculty is that the updated executive order will temporarily ban individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for a period of 90 days from the effective date of the order, which is March 16, 2017.

The U.S. government constantly reviews and refines its procedures, and we anticipate this situation will continue to evolve. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the owner and administrator of the GMAT® exam, is closely tracking the orders and resulting legal challenges and we are committed to keeping our education community informed.

The executive order is entitled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.  It revokes the prior executive order (EO 13769) signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, which was on hold as a result of litigation.

Highlights of the new order include:

  • Institutes a 90-day suspension of entry to the United States from citizens of the 6 countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen.
  • Individuals from Iraq are not included on this list.
  • The travel ban will apply to foreign nationals of the designated countries who are (i) outside the United States on the effective date of the order; (ii) did not have a valid visa as of January 27, 2017; and (iii) do not have a valid visa as of the date of this executive order.
  • The executive order does not apply to lawful permanent residents (valid holders of U.S. “green cards) and certain other categories of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States.

Background Information on This Executive Order

  • To read information posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security click here; and also read Homeland Security Secretary Kelly’s statement on the executive order; as well as the Fact Sheet and Q&A released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (These documents were posted in March 2016.)
  • According to the Fact Sheet, the executive order will affect travel by nationals of the six countries as follows: “For the next 90 days, foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen who are outside the United States on the effective date of the order, do not currently have a valid visa on the effective date of this order, and did not have a valid visa at 5:00 eastern standard time on January 27, 2017, are not eligible to travel to the United States. The 90-day period will allow for proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals.”  Again, the “effective date” of the order is March 16, 2017.
  • The Executive Order does not apply to individuals who are within the United States on the effective date of the Order or to those individuals who hold a valid visa. Visas which were provisionally revoked solely as a result of the enforcement of Executive Order 13769 are valid for purposes of administering this Executive Order. Individuals holding valid F, M, or J visas may continue to travel to the United States on those visas if they are otherwise valid.
  • The Executive Order does not affect F, M, or J visa holders if they currently have a valid visa on the effective date or held a valid visa on January 27, 2017 prior to the issuance of the Executive Order. With that said, travelers must have a valid visa to travel to the United States, regardless of the Executive Order.  Travelers whose visa expires after the effective date of the Executive Order must obtain a new, valid visa to return to the United States.

Ask a Question or Leave a Reply

The author OfficialGMAT gets email notifications for all questions or replies to this post.

Some HTML allowed. Keep your comments above the belt or risk having them deleted. Signup for a Gravatar to have your pictures show up by your comment.