President Donald Trump’s March 6th revised Executive Order directs the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence to review information sharing and develop uniform screening and vetting standards and procedures for visas and other immigration benefits. In June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held this review could proceed, and the State Department issued its first guidance to all U.S. diplomatic posts on July 12, 2017. Eventually, there will be lists of countries that meet and not meet the new standards.
According to the guidance, within about 50 days, “posts must inform host governments of the new information sharing standards and request that host government provide the requested information or develop a plan to do so.” Countries that fail to comply may face travel sanctions. The Administration explained in the revised EO that the six countries currently subject to the travel ban were selected because they had “been significantly compromised by terrorist organizations, or contain[ed] active conflict zones” and that those “circumstances diminished the foreign government’s willingness or ability to share or validate important information about individuals seeking to travel to the United States.” Now, those six countries may have an opportunity to be dropped from the list of banned countries, while other countries might be added.
All countries, even visa waiver countries, will be expected to share information on identity management and security and public safety threats.
According to the July 12 cable to all U.S. diplomatic posts that was published by Reuters, through a series of questions, the posts must determine whether their host countries:
- Issue or have active plans to issue electronic passports including biometric imaging
- Will provide and update samples of all passports and national identity documents
- Regularly report lost or stolen passports to INTERPOL
- Are prepared to supply any identity information requested, including biometric or biographic details
- Provide or will provide data on individuals it knows or has grounds to believe are terrorists, including foreign terrorists
- Provide or will provide criminal record information
- Will agree not to impede the transfer of information about U.S.-bound travelers to the U.S. government
- Will agree not to designate individuals for watch lists solely on the basis of political or religious beliefs
- Take measures or will take measures to ensure that the country is not and does not have the potential to become a safe haven for terrorists. For instance, posts will need to know: “[w]hat steps has your host government taken to deny terrorists space in which to operate? Are there ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed physical areas in the host country or bureaucratic practices that allow mala fide travelers to use host country passports to travel to the United States?”
- Agree to repatriate their own nationals who have been removed from the United States
The U.S. government reportedly has made a preliminary determination about countries that do not currently meet the new standards and countries that are “at risk” of not meeting the standards. The State Department guidance also states that there could be “a presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of certain categories of foreign nationals of non-compliant countries.”
Visa waiver countries will be informed that much of information being required overlaps with the standards for the visa waiver program and that the United States “will continue to engage VWP countries on the requirements set forth in the ‘Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.’”