January 30, 2017

Executive Summary

On Jan. 27, the US government issued an executive order banning citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the US for at least 90 days; all Syrian citizens are barred until further notice. The order also suspends the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days.

President Donald Trump promised to place restrictions on immigration and refugee policies during his 2016 campaign; the executive order is officially designed to provide a window of opportunity for the government to strengthen its visa issuance procedures and to deter possible entry of militants planning acts of terrorism.

An apparent lack of coordination between the Trump Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) resulted in confusion over how to enforce the executive order. DHS has since provided limited clarification on the travel ban, and further alteration - or expansion - of the executive order remains possible over the next 90 days.

Key Judgments:

  • DHS officials have stated that lawful permanent US residents (green card holders) will not be prevented from traveling to the US, but these travelers could still face additional security checks and processing delays at airports.
  • Travelers from the blacklisted countries with visas who are currently in the US may not be able to return if they choose to leave.
  • The Trump Administration has stated that more countries could be added to the travel ban via a presidential proclamation.
  • Reciprocal travel restrictions are possible for US citizens traveling to the blacklisted countries.

Details of Executive Order

Initial interpretations of the order at the level of enforcement caused confusion regarding the status of green card holders, as well as those who were in transit when the order was signed. Individuals from the restricted countries with visas and green cards were initially detained at airports across the US; on Jan. 28, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a temporary stay to clear recent arrivals who had been detained and allowed those already in transit to be permitted entry.

DHS Secretary John Kelly issued a statement on Jan. 29 that individuals abroad with permanent US residency status will not be prevented from traveling to the US. Kelly's statement deemed the "entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest." Despite this, DHS forewarned that green card holders from the seven countries could still face additional security checks and processing delays at airports as they work to prevent threats to public safety.

CBP officials reportedly advised the International Air and Transport Association (IATA) that lawful permanent residents were outside the scope of the executive order and should be allowed to travel; IATA subsequently provided this guidance to airlines.

US officials have stated that travelers to the seven countries will not automatically be blocked, but will face much more intense screening. Border agents have been given "discretionary authority" to detain and question travelers from certain countries that are perceived to present a higher threat; it remains unclear what countries might fall into this category.

The White House stated that additional countries may be added to the executive order, but no details were given as to which countries might be added or when, and it is unlikely that any forewarning will be provided.

Reciprocal Actions

On Jan. 30, Iraqi lawmakers voted to approve a ban on US citizens, while calling on Trump to rescind the executive order. Details of the pending legislation have not been made public and have yet to be adopted. If Baghdad approves the measure, it will likely not have a direct impact on US military personnel or ranking diplomatic officials traveling to Iraq. It could, however, affect US embassy and consulate support staff, civilian security personnel, business travelers, oil and gas contractors, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists. Similar actions are possible from other countries on the visa ban list.


  • Organizations should consult with legal counsel regarding the potential impact on traveling employees.
  • Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen currently in the US should not depart if planning to return within the next 90 days.
  • If abroad, citizens of the impacted countries should consult with the local US diplomatic mission before attempting travel to the US for the next 90 days.
  • Travelers to the US arriving from the impacted countries should prepare for increased scrutiny at US entry points for the foreseeable future.


It is unlikely that the Trump Administration will lift the ban in light of ongoing protests and political opposition to the executive order; such criticism of the policy is likely to continue for several days or weeks. The Trump Administration, DHS, and CBP will likely provide further clarification of the order, particularly with respect to its impact on US permanent residents and dual citizens.