While the confusion and upheaval in international air travel resulting from the Jan. 27 U.S. travel ban has abated, Travel Managers need to pay close attention to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of State, and other federal agencies involved in international travel, as new security measures could be issued at any time. JTB USA Business Travel is monitoring the latest developments with the travel ban; however, the impacts resulting from any new security measures will likely move fast.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last Thursday upheld a lower court judge’s suspension of the travel ban, a move that many expected would be further challenged by the Trump Administration, with an appeal either to the full bench of the 9th Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the White House over the weekend indicated that it would not seek to challenge the appeals court ruling, but would instead likely issue a new executive order with “new security measures,” including possible “extreme vetting” of international travelers coming into the country.
The now suspended travel ban—Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States—had ordered DHS to ban entry of all refuges for 120 days, and bar entry of foreign nationals from the countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The temporary country specific ban was scheduled to be in place for at least 90 days to give DHS time to develop new security protocols and screening for travelers entering the U.S. from those countries. Upon its implementation on Saturday, Jan. 28, the ban caused turmoil and international flight delays in both the U.S. and overseas, as airlines and the DHS itself tried to interpret how to appropriately apply the new order. In particular, it took several days for DHS to determine the status of existing visa holders and legal U.S. residents (Green Card holders) from those countries and whether the ban applied to them. Meanwhile, a federal judge issued a temporary block on the travel ban to allow the judiciary to determine the legality of the ban under the Constitution, as requested by lawsuits filed in the states of Washington and Minnesota.
And now, with the Ninth Circuit’s Feb. 9 ruling, and apparent White House decision to abide by it, International travel appears to be back to normal. Despite the Ninth Circuit’s suspension of the ban, the lower court lawsuits challenging it, along with another filed in Virginia, will likely proceed, though the White House will likely not offer significant defense going forward given the expected issuance of new security measures.
For its part, DHS is working hard to re-issue about 50,000 visas that were cancelled during the ban. White house lawyers are reportedly working with their counterparts at DHS and State Department in an effort to draft new security measures that will address the alleged Constitutional flaws inherent in the original travel ban. While President Trump suggested that the new measures could be released as early as Monday or Tuesday, the White House legal team may need longer to craft rules that will pass muster with any expected judiciary review.
In preparing for the issuance of new security measures, Travel Managers can focus on the intent of the original Executive Order for hints about which travelers will be most likely to be affected. Thus, travelers from the countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, are most at risk from being impacted by any new measures, though nothing precludes the addition of more countries to the list. While an outright ban may no longer be legally feasible, there is no way to determine with certainty what the new security measures may entail. Note also that countries affected by the new measures may decide to respond with measures that may impact U.S. travelers.
In the coming days and weeks, Travel Managers should pay particularly close attention to all clients planning U.S. travel who may have status as U.S. Green Card holders or hold dual nationality from any of the countries impacted by the initial travel ban. Travel Managers should thoroughly review paperwork needs for all clients so as to ensure ease of entry into the U.S., and monitor DHS for any potential updates to their airport security measures. JTB USA is also monitoring DHS, so as to provide clients updates to any changes in regulatory protocols impacting travel into or out of the U.S.