With all the talk about billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure and sweeping reversal of prior executive orders affecting construction labor and federal contracts, it should come as no surprise that President Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration may have an affect on the construction industry.
What Happened? Beginning on January 25, 2017, the Trump Administration began leaking a series of Executive Orders aimed at changing immigration policies that have developed over the last decade. Three of those have been signed as of January 28, 2017, and more orders likely will be signed in the coming weeks.
The order that received the most attention over the weekend affects citizens from the following countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This includes individuals who may have dual citizenship with other countries. The order instructs U.S. Customs not to allow citizens of these countries to enter the U.S. for the next 90 days.
What’s the “Real” Effect? Many of the cases of detained individuals that made the news involved Legal Permanent Residents of the U.S. (“green card holders”). However, DHS Secretary Kelley has stated that LPRs will be admitted as of this morning. The order also suspends the Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, which means that refugees from any country who have been processed for entry outside the U.S. will not be admitted unless DHS makes an exception based on “national interest.”
Department of State, which processes visas at U.S. Consulates abroad, also sent emergency notifications Sunday that visa cases for citizens of these countries will be put on hold indefinitely. The court-ordered stays entered Saturday and Sunday only prevent DHS from detaining and deporting individuals based solely on the executive order. Travel bans, suspension of visa processing, and suspension of the Refugee Admission Program appear to be intact. DHS has not been clear on how it intends to comply with the court orders, likely because the court orders themselves are not altogether clear.
What You Need to Know? While it may seem obvious, here are a few things to be mindful. As related to international construction projects, point number 2 below will likely affect international business travel on foreign construction projects.
- Stay Put! Citizens of these countries, dual citizens of these countries, and possibly non-U.S. citizens who have visited these countries in the last few years should refrain from travelling if at all possible. Affected individuals who are outside the U.S. should make arrangements to remain outside the U.S. for the duration, and those who are in transit to the U.S. should be prepared for delays and detention at a U.S. airports or other ports of entry. You should not sign any waivers or other documents relinquishing approved visas despite pressure from airline authorities and Customs officials to do so.
- Reciprocal Action is Likely. Government officials from several countries on this list have stated intentions to subject U.S. travelers to similar scrutiny and travel bans under the diplomatic principal of reciprocity. Construction projects in these target areas must be ready for the challenges of reciprocal action.
- Visa Processing is going to Change. Citizens of all countries should be prepared for visa processing times to increase, background checks to intensify, and denial rates on visa cases to rise. The executive order eliminates several “work-arounds” that U.S. Consulates have developed over the years to make visa processing more efficient. Some countries, such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines, may see visa processing times increase from weeks to months this year.
Special thanks to my colleague Anna Scully for contributing to this post!