With broad public support, the U.S. enacted a travel ban targeting people from certain parts of the world. Prior to the ban, one lawmaker expressed concern that other countries "dumped upon the United States their criminals... and their undesirables," despite a lack of evidence. The year was 1924, when Congress passed a law barring most Italians and Eastern European Jews, and virtually all Asians, from entering the country. While the law didn't explicitly ban Jews, nations with large Jewish populations were on the travel ban list.
Sound familiar? Travel bans and visa restrictions are nothing new, but they tend to coincide with stated national security concerns (although some have been overtly discriminatory). This article provides an overview of some of the higher profile travel and visa restrictions in U.S. history as well as ways to navigate these bans if you or a loved one are affected.
Travel Bans: Then and Now
2017 Travel Ban
In a campaign press release dated Dec. 7, 2015 (since removed but cited in a March 15, 2017 court order), then-candidate Donald Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Once elected, President Trump instituted a travel ban affecting people in seven Muslim-majority countries, stating that his intent was to prevent terrorism.
Federal courts blocked the first ban on grounds that it violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection and the First Amendment's Establishment Clause (claiming it targeted Muslims specifically). The administration then issued a second executive order (excluding Iraq, but adding refugees to the list) but it too was blocked on similar grounds. The third travel ban added North Korea and Venezuela (their inclusion wasn't challenged), but removed Sudan. It, too, was challenged in federal courts.
On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this third iteration of the travel ban, stating that such bans are within the President's power and that this particular one was not a "Muslim ban." The ruling made the ban permanent, subject to further laws or executive orders.
The third travel ban applied to travelers from the following countries, to varying degrees:
Earlier Travel Bans
The United States has implemented travel and immigration bans on various groups of people throughout its history. Other examples include the following:
Note: All of the bans listed above have since expired or been overturned.
Those Generally Exempt From Travel Bans
Individuals in countries from which there is a ban on travel to the United States may be exempt if they have a valid visa dated prior to the effective date of the ban, unless their visa expires. Travel bans typically don't apply to the following:
How to Seek a Waiver to a Travel Ban
If you're affected by a travel ban, you may be able to seek a waiver if you're able to prove the following:
You must apply for a visa at your respective U.S. embassy or consular office in order to apply for a waiver. Although waiver requests are processed on a case-by-case basis, reasons for a waiver may include the following:
Subject to a Travel Ban or Visa Restriction? Contact an Immigration Lawyer
Restrictions on travel, whether they're issued as an executive order or created by an act of Congress, have the potential to significantly disrupt lives and separate families. If you or a loved one has been affected by a travel ban or a visa restriction, don't give up hope. An experienced immigration law attorney can help you navigate the system.
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.