U.S. Immigration and Travel Restrictions - IAM President’s Commentary and Update

February 02, 2017

After last week’s Executive Order by the U.S. on immigration and refugees there has been considerable press coverage in the US national news and overseas.  Surprisingly, as of today, IAM has not received a single inquiry or question relative to the matter from one of our members.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions; and the closer the Association gets  to launching the registration process for our 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo there undoubtedly will be questions and concerns raised that need to be addressed. 

Rest assured the IAM staff and your elected leadership will be focused on developing policies and procedures to insure you can confidently make your decisions to attend and we will support the membership in all ways possible to experience another successful conference.

The Membership should also be aware that IAM is monitoring the evolving issue very closely and working with a number of other organizations and coalitions to influence where the policy goes from here.  Primarily, our efforts are through the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Professional Conference and Meeting Planners Association (PCMA).  The US Travel Association and other hospitality focused groups are out in front of the issue. These organizations and the Meetings Mean Business Coalition have already written to the Trump Administration with regard to the Executive Order and its potential impact on travel to the USA, as well as, conferences and trade shows that draw and rely heavily on international attendees.   All these organizations are urging the administration to quickly conduct its review of the visa issuance protocols with the aim of developing a secure and safe travel system that protects international travelers and welcomes them into our country whether traveling for a meeting or leisure.”  

There been a lot of misinformation about the Executive Order, so let’s break it down to the simplest terms.  The following is an excerpt from an ASAE newsletter and a Meetings Mean Business Coalition communication released recently.

What the Executive Order Does:

The executive order includes several provisions that temporarily suspend or limit travel from various countries around the world. Among the most significant provisions for the travel community, the executive order:

  • Suspends entry to the U.S. for 90 days for nationals of seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen) traveling on immigrant and non-immigrant visas;
  • Calls for review of visa issuance procedures and information sharing on visa applicants from foreign governments. Countries not sharing information on visa applicants with the U.S. can be barred from receiving visas in the future;
  • Suspends the admission of most refugees for 120 days;
  • Bars refugees from Syria for an indefinite period;
  • Reduces the total number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. in FY 2017 to no more than 50,000; and
  • Requests expedited completion of biometric entry-exit tracking at ports of entry.

The purpose of the executive order is to give the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, the opportunity to review the current visa review process and determine: 1) what additional information is needed during the visa process to verify if an individual poses a national security threat; and 2) which countries are failing to provide that necessary information.

No Impact on the Visa Waiver Program

Many news outlets have incorrectly reported that the executive order suspends the Visa Waiver Program. This is not the case. The executive order does suspend the
Visa Interview Waiver Program, a distinct and separate program for countries where a visa is needed to travel to the U.S., which allows for visa renewal without an interview.

According to the U.S. State Department, this means that visa interviews are now required for all applicants except those that fit in the following categories:

  • Applicants under the age of 14 or above 79;
  • Applicants who held a visa in the same category that expired less than 12 months prior to the new application—a reduction from the previous 48-month period; and
  • Diplomatic and official visa applicants from foreign governments and international organizations.

This provision also means that first-time Brazilian and Argentinian applicants, ages 14-15 and 66-79, who were previously exempt, will now be subject to visa interviews.

Next Steps

Meetings Mean Business is working closely with the U.S. Travel Association on this issue and ensuring the meetings perspective is a part of advocacy efforts.  U.S. Travel is committed to engaging on all fronts to protect the interests of the travel industry and ensure we strike the right balance between our national security and broader economic goals. Specific actions include:

  • Reaching out to the Trump administration, Congress, the media and other stakeholders to communicate both our industry's alignment on security goals and the importance of international travel to our economy, and to ensure efforts to enhance national security do not harm legitimate travel;
  • Urging the administration to conduct its review quickly in order to return to admitting legitimate travelers;
  • Seeking clarity from the administration on the order's impact on certain groups of travelers—for example, EU citizens with dual nationalities from the seven affected countries;
  • Reinforcing the broad benefits of Brand USA, which in times of controversy plays a critically important role in communicating official information and building positive perceptions of the U.S. as a desirable travel destination;
  • Educating the administration and lawmakers on the Visa Waiver Program as a key vehicle to facilitate secure international travel; 
  • Assessing the impact of the current executive order on inbound travel from large international markets due to negative perceptions; and
  • Collecting data and feedback from the meetings industry to understand the impact on that sector specifically.

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I hope this article addresses some of the current questions, confusion and concerns the membership might have at this stage of the process.  Rest assured we will provide timely updates and new information as it becomes known and available to us.

I would be interested in hearing what the members feel about this topics, so please feel free to email me directly at – Terry.Head@IAMovers.org

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