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President Biden Revokes Travel Bans Affecting Primarily Muslim-Majority and African Countries

Late Wednesday, President Joseph R. Biden issued a presidential proclamation that revokes two Trump Administration nationality-based travel bans targeting primarily Muslim-majority and African countries.  Under the order, the Secretary of State must direct U.S. embassies and consulates to resume processing visa applications previously subject to the bans in a manner consistent with current consular operating status and COVID-19 precautions.

As a result of the proclamation, nationals of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen will no longer be subject to restrictions on nonimmigrant and/or immigrant visa issuance imposed by a 2017 Trump administration travel ban, that was revised multiple times amid legal challenges, and ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2018.

Nationals of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania will no longer be subject to immigrant visa restrictions under a January 2020 Trump proclamation.  This ban affected nationals seeking to enter the United States for permanent residence only.

Both bans authorized certain exemptions and waivers, but in practice, waivers were challenging to obtain and could be delayed for lengthy periods of time. 

Lifting of visa issuance and travel restrictions

Specifically, nationals of the following countries under the 2017 ban will no longer be subject to these limitations:

  • Iran: Restrictions lifted on nonimmigrant visas (F/M student visas and J exchange visitor visas were always exempt), and on immigrant visas, including the diversity lottery.
  • Libya: Restrictions lifted on B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visitor visas and on immigrant visas, including diversity lottery visas.
  • North Korea: Restrictions lifted on all nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.
  • Somalia: Restrictions lifted on immigrant visas, including diversity visas.
  • Syria: Restrictions lifted on all nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.
  • Venezuela: Restrictions lifted under this ban on B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas for officials of designated Venezuelan government agencies. However, a separate proclamation affecting certain Venezuelan nationals associated with the Maduro government remains in effect.
  • Yemen: Restrictions lifted on B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visitor visas and immigrant visas, including diversity lottery visas.

Nationals of the following previously restricted countries under the January 2020 immigrant visa ban will no longer be subject to the following immigrant visa issuance limitations:

  • Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma), and Nigeria: Restrictions lifted on all immigrant visas under the proclamation; and
  • Sudan and Tanzania: Restrictions lifted on diversity lottery immigrant visas.​

State Department report required under the proclamation

The presidential proclamation also requires the Secretary of State to provide President Biden with a report within 45 days that contains the following:

  • The number of visa applicants currently being considered for waivers under the revoked bans and a plan for expeditiously adjudicating their visa applications;
  • A proposal to ensure that individuals whose immigrant visa applications were denied under either ban may have their applications reconsidered; and
  • A plan to ensure that visa applicants are not prejudiced by a previous denial under either ban if they choose to re-apply for a visa.

Information-sharing and vetting review under the proclamation

Further, within 120 days, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, must provide to President Biden a report containing the following:

  • Description of the current screening and vetting procedures for those seeking nonimmigrant and immigrant entry to the United States, including those implemented in connection with the revoked travel bans;
  • Review of foreign government information-sharing practices with respect to the United States in order to evaluate the efficacy of those practices;
  • Recommendations to improve screening and vetting activities, including diplomatic efforts; and
  • A review and recommendations regarding the current use of social media identifiers in screening and vetting processes, including whether their use yields meaningful improvements.

What this means for nationals of affected countries

Foreign nationals affected by the rescinded bans will no longer be subject to their restrictions.  As a reminder, several other directives impacting visa issuance and travel remain in place, including those that are nationality-based (e.g., bans affecting certain Chinese students and certain Venezuelan nationals) and visa classification-based, as well as existing COVID-19 public health bans and travel restrictions. Further, all foreign nationals are subject to national security screening and vetting when applying for a U.S. visa or admission to the United States, which could delay visa issuance notwithstanding the revocation of the two Trump-era bans.

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