The travel ban of the American president Donald Trump appears to be working. In the first few weeks following Trump’s most recent ban, only 100 exemptions were granted. In total, thousands of US visa applications came in from eight countries that are on Trump’s ‘blacklist’, according to Reuters.
White House (Washington D.C.)
Countries on the blacklist
On 8 December, Trump announced a blacklist. This list holds countries for which a travel ban applies. This includes Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Venezuela. From those countries, 8400 people made a visa application for the United States.
Of those 8400 people, only 128 applications actually got a visa. They were able to enter the country due to various exceptions, for instance because they already lived in the USA before the law came into effect, or because they belong to a special group.
Visa exemption as part of travel ban
The travel ban of Trump has a special feature that in certain cases, a visa exemption can be given, if these cases do not qualify for the regular exemptions. These can be, for example, urgent medical cases, or arranging an adoption. A visa exemption can also be given to people that had a prior visa, and are now returning to the United States for work or to study.
Senatorial inquiry on visa exemptionsSenators Chris van Hollen and Jeff Flake sent a letter to Homeland Security, asking what exactly the case was with the rejections. In the letter they reveal that they have received a large number of mentions of uniform rejections of visa exemptions.
According to Van Hollen, the Trump government claims that the system regarding visa exemptions in the USA can be used by anyone who doesn’t pose a threat to the country. The senator calls it a ‘farce’, which is intended to obfuscate Trump’s true intentions.
Van Hollen says that various courts that have looked at the travel ban believe it to be a ‘muslim ban’, which goes against the constitution and immigration laws of America. Six of the eight countries on the blacklist are muslim countries. According to the Trump government, these countries have a high risk of terrorism. The travel ban is meant to protect the people of the United States against this threat.
Applying for a visa is complicated for most people from the countries on the blacklist. Often, these countries are on the list because they didn’t adhere to the standards of the US regarding sharing information and identity management.
Applying for a regular visa
The United Kingdom isn’t on Trump’s blacklist. This makes it possible for British nationals to apply for a US visa as normal. Travellers can also apply for an ESTA visa. This is a mandatory travel authorisation to travel to the USA without a visa (beware of flying with your laptop). An ESTA application takes about five minutes and costs €29,95 per person. Of course, it’s possible to submit multiple applications at once.
Without an ESTA, travellers will be denied entry. This travel authorisation is mandatory. Even if the US is only a stop on the way to the another destination, an ESTA is still required. Handy to know: this authorisation is not a document but a digital authorisation. It is valid for a maximum of two years.