How to Apply for Waiver of Trump Travel Ban

The Trump travel ban supposedly came with an opportunity to apply for a waiver, but how does one actually apply for it?

When Donald Trump signed the "Executive Order Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States" on March 17, banning foreign travel into the U.S. from six nations, it included a provision saying waivers would be granted on a case-by-case basis. Either a consular officer or or a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official could, it said, make this discretionary decision.

The order offered examples of who might qualify for a waiver, such as people with:

  • previous U.S. admissions for continuous work or study
  • significant ties to the U.S.
  • significant business or professional obligations in the U.S.
  • U.S. family members (spouse, children under age 21, and parents who would suffer undue hardship if the applicant was denied entry
  • emergency circumstances such as medical needs
  • jobs with the U.S. government or an international organization
  • landed Canadian immigrant status, applying for the visa from Canada, and
  • government sponsorship for an exchange program.

As of mid-2018, however, it appears that few people have actually been granted these waivers. This raises various questions.

What Is the Application Process for a Travel Ban Waiver?

The short answer is that no one knows how, exactly, to apply for this travel-ban waiver. No waiver form has been created for this purpose.

The government has provided so little guidance to the public that Congress became concerned. Senators Van Hollen and Flake sent a letter to the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on January 31, 2018.

They demanded guidance on the waiver process, as well as details regarding how many applicants from the travel-ban countries have applied for and received waivers.

In response, DOS stated that it had, between December 8, 2017 and January 8, 2018, gotten 8,406 applications for nonimmigrant and immigrant visas from travel-ban affected people. Of those, 128 applicants qualified for visas because they fell into categories exempted from the ban.

But the U.S. rejected the waivers for all but two applicants as of February 15, 2018. In early March of 2018, DOS told Reuters that it had granted another 100-plus waivers, but did not state how many additional applications it had received.

What Are the U.S. Government Standards for Granting Travel Ban Waivers?

To successfully apply for a travel ban waiver, you will need to proceed with the normal visa application process, but also show that:

  • denying you entry would cause you undue hardship
  • your entry would not pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the U.S., and
  • your entry would be in the U.S. national interest.

When applying for your U.S. visa, you are expected to give the consular officer information that might show your qualification for a waiver. There is no form for this.

Presumably you will need to provide documents proving these things, either at your visa interview at a U.S. consulate or when you enter the U.S. and meet a CBP officer.

For example, if claiming a waiver based on emergency medical needs, you would want to include a statement from your doctor. If claiming a waiver based on hardship to family in the U.S., you would need to provide copies of birth and marriage certificates proving the family relationship (if they're not already in the immigration file under which you're applying) and evidence of the nature of that hardship.

It would be wise to get the help of an experienced immigration attorney for assessing your waiver case and preparing persuasive documentary evidence.

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