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President Biden Swiftly Reverses Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive action to repeal Trump’s immigration and entry restrictions known as the “Muslim ban.”

Faced with legal challenges, the Trump administration had twice revised its original ban. However, in June 2018, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Trump Administration’s third version of the ban (Presidential Proclamation 9645) which covered nationals from Muslim majority nations including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. That last version also added restrictions to government officials from Venezuela and people traveling from North Korea.

On January 31, 2020, the ban was expanded by (Presidential Proclamation 9983) which placed restrictions on permanent immigration from additional countries including: Kyrgyzstan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan and Burma (Myanmar).

Combined, the two orders imposed a ban on immigrant and diversity visas across most of the countries listed. As well, the orders imposed limitations or bars on nonimmigrant visas from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, certain Venezuelans, and Yemen.

The Biden executive action fully reverses both proclamation 9645 and 9983 and states, “we will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States.” Importantly, the Biden order calls for the State Department to restart visa processing and for the clearing of backlog of cases in waiver processing. Also, within 45 days, the State Department must provide a plan or proposal to:

  • expedite adjudications of those who were being considered for a waiver under the prior bans;
  • ensure those denied under the prior bans may have their applications reconsidered; and
  • ensure that visa applicants previously denied are not prejudiced if they chose to re-apply for a visa.

Biden’s executive order reversing the Muslim ban, however, does not reverse other travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The resumption of visa processing is subject to applicable law including any related to (COVID-19).