The “Trump Travel Ban” was actually a series of Executive Orders issued by President Trump that outlined country-specific temporary restrictions on the issuance of visas. The legality of these Executive Orders was challenged in court numerous times, restrictions were added and deleted, and many exceptions and waivers were carved out. All of this made it quite difficult to determine whether these restrictions applied to any one person.
With the election of Joseph Biden, however, most of these bans were lifted. Therefore this article should be referenced for solely historical purposes.
(Note: The security-based, country-specific travel bans described here are different from the COVID-19 health-based travel bans also put into place by the Trump Administration.)
The Travel Ban placed restrictions on nationals of certain countries based on three criteria, namely whether:
For example, a country might be put on the list if it does not issue electronic passports or does not share information regarding lost and stolen passports, with other countries.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also evaluates how freely a country shares information with the U.S. about known criminals and terrorists. It also penalizes countries that take a long time to issue passports to their citizens who are being deported (removed) from the United States.
The restrictions do not apply if you already have a valid visa or green card or other valid travel document. There is no specific exception for visa renewals, but visa renewals in some categories might be eligible for a waiver. There are other circumstances in which you might also qualify for a waiver, if none of these exceptions apply to you. Waivers will be discussed later in the article.
The restrictions also do not apply to people who were already in the U.S. when the travel ban, affecting that individual’s nationality, went into effect.
If you are a dual citizen of one country affected by the travel ban and another country that is not affected, you are not subject to travel restrictions if you apply for the visa using the passport of the country that is not affected.
For some countries, the restrictions are applicable only to certain visa categories. For instance, if you're coming from Yemen, you'd only be blocked from getting a B visa, for tourism or business.
Three main groups of countries were affected by the Executive Order restrictions. Some groups have exceptions to the restrictions based on visa type.
The first group has restrictions that were effective as of September 24, 2017. These include:
Chad was originally in this first group, but was taken off the list in a subsequent Executive Order.
The second group has restrictions that were effective as of October 18, 2017. These restrictions include:
The third, and most recent group of countries has restrictions that were effective as of February 21, 2020. These restrictions include:
If you are from one of these countries and you need a visa in a restricted category, you might be eligible for a waiver, or an individual exception.
Your waiver eligibility can be determined only if you apply for a visa, and you must meet all the other requirements of the visa. During your interview, you will have an opportunity to explain to the consular officer why you qualify for a waiver; there is no separate process. There are three basic requirements for the waiver:
Waivers are determined on a case-by-case basis, but ordinarily can be considered when the applicant:
Though these might seem like relatively generous criteria, in the first year of the travel ban, reportedly only 6% of applicants were granted waivers. (This excludes those that already qualified for exceptions.)
Therefore, if you fall into a restricted category and plan to apply for a visa, be prepared to clearly articulate (in a very short interview) the hardships you would face or the U.S. national interest that will be served by your visa approval.
For example, if you are traveling on behalf of a foreign company that is purchasing high dollar amounts of goods or services from a U.S. company, you might be able to show how your visit is necessary to complete the transaction, and in the U.S. national interest because of the economic impact. If your travel truly involves a life-or-death situation, this might also be compelling. Just keep in mind that the bar for waiver approval is very high, and you must also meet the other qualifications of the visa.