President Biden Revokes Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States

President Biden Revokes Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States

Around mid-day on 20 January 2021, Joseph Biden was sworn in as the next President of the United States, and within hours of taking office, he had signed 17 executive orders and presidential proclamations to set the tone for his presidency over the coming years. Amongst these orders were several related to immigration policy and practice, including a Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States.

The proclamation begins by saying:

“The United States was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution.  Nevertheless, the previous administration enacted a number of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States — first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries.  Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”

This is in reference to a handful of President Trump’s previous proclamations, including Proclamations 9645 and 9983, more commonly known as “Travel Ban 3.0” or the “Muslim Ban”. The purported purpose of these proclamations was to enhance national security and public safety, but in reality, the proclamations were largely the result of blatant discrimination against majority Muslim countries and African countries. In short, under certain circumstances, these proclamations banned entry to the United States for nationals of Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen. More information can be found about the specific restrictions imposed on nationals of each country in our blog post Countries Affected by Trump’s ‘Travel Ban 3.0’ Rise to Thirteen.

President Biden’s proclamation immediately rescinds the previously imposed bans and orders US Consulates and Embassies around the world to resume processing US visa applications for those that had been subject to the restrictions. It also directs the Secretary of State to propose a plan for reconsidering US visa applications that were previously denied only on the basis of Proclamation 9645 or 9983.

It is worth noting that President Biden’s proclamation allows previously affected individuals to apply for a US visa and seek entry to the United States, but there are still country-specific travel restrictions in place related to the Visa Waiver Program under the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 which was implemented during the Obama administration. The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of 39 countries to travel visa-free to the United States with an approved ESTA. However, anyone who would normally be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, but who has been physically present in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen since 1 March 2011, must instead obtain a visa to travel to the United States. There is, however, a limited exception for those traveling on official military orders or government business. In addition, anyone who is a dual national of a Visa Waiver Program participating country AND either Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, must also obtain a visa from an Embassy or Consulate rather than travel visa-free.

—Rikkilee Barrow, Associate Attorney

Please note that this blog is for informational purposes and is not intended as advice. If you would like more information about anything referenced in this post, or if you would like advice regarding your eligibility for a visa or the Visa Waiver Program, please email rikkilee@janiceflynnlaw.com.

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