FILIPINOS who want to travel to United States are still welcome to do so as the Philippines is not among the “countries of concern” listed in President Donald Trump’s executive order requiring “extreme vetting” of immigrants, the US State Department has said.
US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner made the assurance before Filipino journalists in a news conference.
“I recommend Filipinos who wish to travel to the United States, [they]should consult with the embassy of Manila,” Toner said.
US Embassy press attaché Molly Koscina also said Filipinos “are still very much welcome to the United States.”
The US Embassy has not changed visa processing or visa requirements, she added.
Just last week, Trump signed an executive order temporarily denying US entry to citizens of seven countries, namely, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The order also covers everyone with a visa from these countries, including “green card” holders who left the US and plan to come back. They will undergo scrutiny and might be prohibited from re-entering the US.
Speaking more broadly before US-based Filipino journalists about the executive order signed last week, Toner said, “obviously all of you know that the Philippines was not one of the countries where a pause was initiated with regards to visas and with regards to refugees.”
Toner was speaking of those who have legal resident status and other visa holders who wish to travel to US.
While the US government has no issues against the Philippines, Toner advised all who wish to travel to the US, for whatever reason, to make sure that they will have legal status in the US.
American authorities, under the new US president, have been under strict orders to deport illegals and those who have criminal records.
“This is a decision that the president took in the national interest of the state. He has said very clearly that his first priority is to protect American lives and American citizens, and so he wanted us to conduct a review on some of the processes by which people travel into the United States,” he said.
Mindanao won’t be included
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) meanwhile denied a report that a revised executive order by Trump might include the southern island of Mindanao as among areas of concern.
Mindanao, the turf of a number of extremist groups, has been suffering from years of terrorist activities and insurgencies.
“Contrary to rumors, AILA National has no confirmation of additional countries being added to travel ban. We will continue to update,” AILA said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
In a separate statement on Friday, AILA communications and outreach associate director Belle Woods said that the organization was informed by the Department of State that “there is no addendum, annex, or amendment now being worked on” to expand the travel ban.
Hammond Law Group LLC, an immigration law firm in Ohio, on Thursday claimed an updated draft of the order was being circulated for review.
If signed, the modified order will add Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, Venezuela, southern Philippines, trans-Sahara (Mali) and Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral to the travel ban, it claimed.
“Given the manner in which the current travel ban was implemented and the way it was announced with no advanced notice, not to mention the lack of guidance with regard to how it was to be enforced, we have no choice but to suggest that nationals from any country on this new list (without regard to their immigration status) refrain from traveling outside the US until such time as we know more about this proposed Executive Order,” Hammond said.
AILA, however, called the information “false,” urging members to help end its spread.