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Statutes of Liberty: Travel Ban 4.0 — And Then, They Came for Kyrgyzstan

This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

First, it, was Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Then, Chad, North Korea and  Venezuela. Now, it’s Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Sudan (again!) Tanzania and Kyrgyzstan.

You may have the impression that the Trump Administration’s attempts to ban travel had failed, failed and failed again. You would be right. However, the Administration (and its indefatigable appellate litigators) have found a formula that has, to date, survived judicial review. That formula is on display in the latest travel ban, which we’ll call Travel Ban 4.0 to distinguish it from the others.

On Friday, January 31, 2020, the President issued a proclamation promulgating Travel Ban 4.0, which suspends the issuance of immigrant visas to nationals from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma) and Nigeria. The ban is less harsh for two other countries, Sudan and Tanzania, because it only freezes visa issuance under the Diversity Visa Program.

This new ban goes into effect, for all countries concerned, on February 21, 2020. After that date, U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world will no longer issue immigrant visas unless the foreign national is granted a special waiver. However, nationals from those countries will still be eligible for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas and visitor visas, and will still be eligible for green cards if they happen to be in the United States.

Travel Ban 4.0 differs in certain important respects from its previous iterations. In issuing the Proclamation, President Trump cites to these countries’ alleged failure to share important security information and for lacking passports with certain security features. Some nations fail to issue travel documents to their nationals who have been ordered removed from the United States. The President also believes that once nationals from these countries enter as lawful permanent residents, they will therefore be harder to remove.

Every individual matters, but some of the banned countries are more populous than others. North Korea doesn’t send many visa applicants our way, and, although some of our very best clients are from Kyrgyzstan, the really big numbers in Travel Ban 4.0 come from one country: Nigeria. Nigerians — who are some of the best-educated immigrants in the United States — make up a large community in the D.C. area and in many other parts of the United States.

We’re your friendly local immigration lawyers, not foreign policy wonks, but, speaking simply as concerned citizens, we think that Travel Ban 4.0 is going to cause a lot of suffering in exchange for very little security gain. If the Administration were truly worried about security, why would it allow foreign nationals to continue to travel to the United States with nonimmigrant visas?

We’ve already seen that foreign students sometimes spy on the U.S. government. Travel Ban 4.0 won’t stop the next Maria Butina. But it will stop our U.S. citizen clients from being reunited with their spouses and minor children.

If you or someone you know might be impacted by this new travel ban, please contact your trusted immigration attorney. Travel Ban 4.0 includes procedures for applying for a waiver. Those procedures are onerous and opaque, but we’re committed to helping people through it.

If you have questions about Travel Ban 4.0 and related topics, please comment below. We welcome all comments and will reply to as many as we can.

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