IF the Republicans and their base of supporters are to be believed, the United States has become the O.K. Corral of the century: a clueless nation-victim of bad hombres worldwide.
So, the Electoral College appointed a new sheriff in town–and he is colorful.
One of the first executive orders Mr. Trump signed on January 27, 2017, was a ban on the entry of refugees, Muslims, visa holders and immigrants, including green card holders.
Worldwide confusion and chaos continue despite, or because of, the Trump administration’s announcements, especially after being ordered by federal courts to suspend the ban.
In these fast-paced suits and counter-suits, what steps can a US visa or green card holder take?
What to know first and what to do next
While the details of who are actually covered by the executive order changes almost from one White House press briefing and statement to the other, events and reports at airports in or outside the United States show that Trump’s immigration ban order affects all visa applicants, refugees and even legal permanent residents with green cards. Check the category that best describes your case or situation.
1) Has not yet applied. If you have not yet scheduled an appointment for a US tourist visa interview, postpone the scheduling process. Keep your official receipt from the issuing financial institution. That receipt is valid for a year. You would need the information from that official receipt to schedule an appointment, either online or by calling up the US Embassy phone number.
2) Visa has been issued. If you have a single-entry visa with annotation, and you must complete the purpose of your trip, be sure all your travel documents are in order (as above). Annotation on your single entry visa specifies the reason for your travel and from which the consular officer based his or her decision when approving your application and issuing the visa. If you have a multiple entry visa for more than a year and your trip is not urgent, let the situation play out first.
3) At a port of entry. When asked about the purpose of your visit, be sure you give the same answer that you gave to the consular officer at the Embassy. The information you provided to the consul at the US Embassy is available to the immigration officer (Customs and Border Protection) at the port of entry. A different response to a similar question could result in revocation of your visa and being put on the next plane back to the Philippines.
Do not bring items and luggage more than you actually need for the temporary stay. Unless you are a student with a valid F-1 (academic); M-1 (vocational); or J-1 visa (exchange visitor), do not bring any documents describing or confirming your education and qualifications such as a diploma, transcript of records, assessment of credentials, evidence of English language proficiency etc.
If you are coming on a temporary work visa, be sure you can answer who the employer or sponsor is, what your duties are, how long you intend to work, compensation stated in your employment contract or job offer, original approval notice from the US Citizenship Immigration Services and certification from the US Department of Labor/Employment Training Organization, if applicable.
4) Already in the US. Check the period of authorized stay that the immigration officer (Border Protection) has indicated either on your passport or arrival departure document. Be advised that the paper-based I-94 Arrival/Departure document is no longer being issued. Instead, the immigration officer will enter the information on the database and/or stamp your passport accordingly. If you wish to have a printed copy of your I-94 you can request for it online.
If you have to extend your stay or change your non-immigrant status to another non-immigrant category, be sure you submit the application well ahead of time (before your initial authorized stay expires) and submit an application for an extension of stay in the status you were admitted as.
5) Waiting for decision on your Change of Nonimmigrant Status and Extension of Stay. As long as your application was received by the US CIS on time, as indicated in the Notice of Action/Receipt Notice, your stay in the US is legal. Be aware that if you were admitted as an H-1B temporary worker, current rules allow you to work for a new or another employer even while waiting for the approval of the new work visa as long as you remain in legal status.
6) Application for change of status refused. Application for extension of stay approved. Your presence in the US remains lawful until the date indicated in your travel or admission document. Since your application to change your status from tourist to student for example has been denied, you need to re-evaluate your situation if submitting an appeal or returning home to the Philippines would be better and from there renew your application for student or work visa as the case may be. Better still, consult an immigration attorney in the United States.
7) Application for extension of stay refused. Application for change of non-immigrant category still pending. In rare cases where your application for extension of stay in your current status is refused while your application for change of category has been approved, the latter would allow you to start work or study (as the case may be). Be sure to read the complete notice of approval in case there are certain clauses and provisions that may affect your situation. Again, it is preferable to consult with an immigration lawyer in the US. There are Filipino-American papers that are available at Filipino stores, restaurants, remittance centers, banks, and at Philippine consulates. You may also ask for a referral from a friend or relative you are staying with or have access to.
8) Application for adjustment of status has been submitted in the US. In certain cases such as when an immigrant visa petition for you in the family- or employment-based category has become current and a visa is already available, apply to adjust your status from temporary to permanent resident instead of applying for a visa in the Philippines (or country of origin).
9) If you are a green card holder needing to visit the Philippines and return to the US. Evaluate whether you really have to make the trip back home. The Philippines may not be on the list of seven predominantly Muslim nations specified in the ban. But if you have visited any of those countries, such a trip could be a red flag. If you have a Muslim-sounding name, it could also trigger further inquiries.
10) If you lost your green card while visiting or outside the US. You need to apply for and get a travel document from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services at the US embassy or consulate of the country where you are. The boarding letter would allow you to board an aircraft or airline. However, be ready to answer questions at the port of entry to prove that you are a lawful permanent resident, that the circumstances for the issuance of your green card are all aboveboard; that you had no intention of abandoning your permanent resident status and you remain eligible for the category for which you were admitted as a legal permanent resident.
Whatever the case, be sure to have a color copy of your green card (permanent resident card) in your wallet, take a photo with your mobile phone, tablet and have it ready for presentation in case you need to establish your eligibility to be allowed back to resume your lawful permanent residency. Then upon admission or being allowed back, immediately apply for a replacement of your green card and if eligible apply for naturalization as a US citizen.
Continuing terrorist activities–and attacks that result in death, injuries–will certainly bolster the claims of Mr. Trump’s supporters that the Muslim and refugee ban must stay–legality be damned. The 45th President won in states where manufacturing jobs were lost. These states are usually referred to as redneck territories, unwelcoming to and leery of non-American-looking migrants, legal or not.
Who are specifically barred according to the Trump executive order? Individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries are barred for 90 days from entering the United States. These countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also bans all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Visa holders are likewise directly affected. To date, a US government lawyer responding to federal court queries admitted that more than 100,000 visas for foreigners inside and outside the United States have also been revoked, albeit on a temporary basis.
The screening and review process is continuing. The White House says that a recommendation for indefinite bans may be issued. Other countries may be added to the list as well.
So, unless you are white, Caucasian or holding a blue American passport, postpone that travel unless you have to.
And be ready to shoot it out—with reasons and documents.