U.S. Immigration & Travel Policy Updates

GMAC’s purpose is to ensure no talent goes undiscovered, and we are committed to providing you with resources and acting in support of students pursuing graduate management education.

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We understand the evolving U.S. immigration and visa situation has caused confusion and concern within our community of schools and candidates. We have reached out to candidates from the affected countries to offer resources and support, as well as encourage them to continue pursuing their educational goals. GMAC is also encouraging candidates and schools to leverage the GMASS database to better connect with each other.

Our graduate management education community is a wonderfully diverse and international community. GMAC’s purpose is to ensure no talent goes undiscovered, and we are committed to providing you with resources and acting in support of students pursuing graduate management education. Please refer to our resource page for international students for additional information.

We will continue to update this area of mba.com as important activities unfold. Additionally, we encourage you to visit our Studying in the United States: Resources & Information for Non-US Citizens page and our Quick Guide: Immigration page for additional information.

You can also contact us at: customercare@mba.com or via our Contact Us page.

Most Recent Update - December 7, 2017

President Trump’s Travel Ban Can Go Into Effect While Legal Challenges Continue

This week the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the injunctions issued by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland in October 2017 and will allow the Trump Administration’s travel ban to go into full effect while the lower courts decide the cases, both of which are being appealed by the government. The Hawaii case is under review by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard arguments by the parties this week, and the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond will consider the Maryland judge’s decision this week as well. Review of the government’s appeals are expected this month to determine whether the latest travel ban is lawful. The Supreme Court’s orders lifting the injunctions were unsigned and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor opposed lifting the injunctions.

The third and latest iteration of the travel ban bars various nationals from eight countries — Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. The Supreme Court’s action means that the Trump Administration can fully enforce its new restrictions on travel for nationals of these countries. While the restrictions vary depending upon the country, generally nationals from the affected countries will not be able to emigrate to the U.S. permanently and may be barred from working, studying or traveling to the U.S. for vacation. The only specific reference in the presidential proclamation to studying in the U.S. is for nationals from Iran. Iranians will be able to come to the U.S. as students, but will be subject to enhanced screening. Most directly affected are students from North Korea and Syria where their entry as immigrants or nonimmigrants (i.e., F-1 students) is suspended. Students from Somalia seeking entry into the U.S. to study may also be subject to additional scrutiny during their visa interview.

For additional information on this travel ban, refer to the October 18 and September 25 updates posted below.

Additional Updates of Interest


President Trump's Latest Travel Ban Put on Hold (October 18, 2017)

A federal judge in Hawaii has placed on hold the President's latest travel ban. The travel ban, originally announced on September 24, was set to go into effect on Wednesday, October 18, barring certain travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson’s temporarily halted the restrictions on travel with respect to all the countries except North Korea and Venezuela. Judge Watson's nationwide temporary restraining order came as a result of a challenge to the President's latest travel ban by the state of Hawaii.

Due to the judge's order, the U.S. State Department is instructing embassies and consulates to resume regular processing of visas for people from the six countries, although it will implement the President's order for those affected travelers from Venezuela and North Korea.

International students from the potentially affected countries listed in the latest travel ban can proceed with their travel plans but should monitor the situation in the U.S. as the Administration will likely appeal the federal judge's ruling. 

For additional information on this travel ban, refer to the September 25 update below entitled, “Travel Ban Update and the Presidential Proclamation on Travel Restrictions.”

Travel Ban Update and the Presidential Proclamation on Travel Restrictions (September 25, 2017)

On September 24, 2017, President Trump announced new travel restrictions on entry to the United States and enhanced visa vetting processes for nationals of certain countries. This latest iteration of the travel ban, issued as “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” replaces his previous Executive Order that expired on September 24.

The presidential proclamation appears much more tailored. New restrictions apply to eight nations, including five that were covered by President Trump’s previous ban. It is important for students in affected countries to review and understand the new restrictions on travel, especially if they are in the process of applying for a visa to travel to the U.S. One important factor is that the presidential proclamation does not appear to affect those currently present and studying in the U.S. However, if a student’s visa is due to expire, or has expired, and they are from an affected country they should speak to legal counsel prior to leaving the United States.”

Details of Presidential Proclamation Issued on September 24

The original Executive Order included banning travel to the U.S. of nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The second travel ban removed Iraq from the list. Now, this third version includes some of the original countries but also adds countries and places specific restrictions to bar immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the U.S. from these countries.

At this time, it appears that the new travel restrictions will most directly affect international students seeking entry into the U.S. from Iran, North Korea, Syria and Somalia due either to a complete suspension of nonimmigrant travel (including in F visa status) or due to additional visa screening processes.

Chad, North Korea and Venezuela are now on the list of countries where travel to the U.S. will be restricted. Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen remain on the list as does Iran. However, there is an exception for Iranian students provided they receive additional screening. Sudan is no longer on the travel ban list. 

The country-specific travel restrictions are the following:

  • Chad, Libya, Yemen – entry into the United States of nationals of these countries, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.
  • Iran – the entry into the United States of nationals of Iran as immigrants and as nonimmigrants is suspended, except that entry by such nationals under valid student (F and M) and exchange visitor (J) visas is not suspended, although such individuals may be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.
  • North Korea, Syria – the entry into the United States of nationals of these countries as immigrants and nonimmigrants is suspended.
  • Somalia – entry into the United States of nationals of Somalia as immigrants is suspended. Additionally, visa adjudications for nationals of Somalia and decisions regarding their entry as nonimmigrants may be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if applicants are connected to terrorist organizations or otherwise pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States.
  • Venezuela – entry of certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas is suspended.

The travel restrictions will be phased in over time, going into effect October 18, 2017, and will not affect anyone who currently holds a U.S. visa. The restrictions will apply to foreign nationals of designated countries who are outside the U.S. and do not have a valid visa as of October 18, 2017. There are exceptions to the travel restrictions, including that the restrictions do not apply to lawful permanent residents of the U.S. nor dual nationals.

To read the White House press release click here, the White House Fact Sheet click here, and the White House FAQ click here.

GMAC Joins ACE and Other Education Groups in Submitting Amicus Brief to U.S. Supreme Court (September 19, 2017)

The Graduate Management Admission Council today joined the American Council on Education (ACE) and several other organizations in submitting an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, which details the impact the travel ban executive order is having on the education community’s ability to attract foreign students, scholars, lecturers, and researchers. An article about this submission is posted on the ACE website.

GMAC Signs on to DACA Letter to Congress (September 13, 2017)

The Graduate Management Admission Council has partnered with 75 leading higher education associations in the U.S. as a signatory to a letter sent on September 12, 2017, to all Members of Congress regarding DACA. We are urging Congress to swiftly pass legislation to protect dreamers. The full text of the letter to Capitol Hill can be found here.

Settlement Reached in the Travel Ban Case (September 7, 2017)

Individuals, including international students, banned from entering the United States under the Trump Administration’s first travel ban can now reapply for visas to enter the U.S. in a settlement reached by the parties (Darweesh, et al., v. Donald Trumpet al., Civil Action No. 17-CV-480). At issue was the January 27, 2017, Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (the “Executive Order”). The settlement was entered September 1, 2017.  

Individuals who filed a visa application with the U.S. Department of State, applied for admission at a U.S. port of entry and were denied entry based on the Executive Order are covered under the settlement. Individuals who were kept from boarding flights and therefore did not apply for admission to the United States at a port of entry are not covered under by the settlement.

The settlement requires that the U.S. government transmit a letter to each individual denied entry due to the Executive Order as well as consider their applications for a visa and future admission to the U.S. The settlement does not provide any damages or monetary compensation and only applies to travelers denied entry who physically made it to the U.S. It is possible that those affected by the settlement may include international students enrolled at American universities who went home and were affected by the Executive Order. It is believed that the number of individuals covered by the settlement is small because it covers only those individuals who were denied entry into the U.S. in the time period between issuance of the Executive Order and a federal judge’s issuance of a temporary injunction immediately thereafter. Affected individuals will be contacted based on the contact information (e.g., email, phone, mailing address) they provided in their visa applications filed with the Department of State. They will be notified that they have three months to reapply for visas.  

Separately, the second revised travel ban is scheduled for oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court next month regarding its legality.

DACA Program Rescinded (September 7, 2017)

The Trump Administration announced this week that it is phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is a program that allows certain individuals who came to the United States as children, have continuously resided in the U.S., and are in school, graduated from high school or obtained a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the military, to apply for benefits. These benefits include deferral of deportation and work authorization. California and Texas have the highest numbers of DACA beneficiaries in the country, followed by New York, Illinois, and Florida. The program has not been without controversy, and recently the attorneys general of Texas and several other states threatened to initiate litigation in federal court if the Administration did not rescind the program. On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA is being rescinded and that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin a phasing out of the program. 

While international students currently in F-1 status will not be directly impacted by rescission of the DACA program, institutions of higher education will feel the effect on certain members of their student body, including the affected student’s ability to access in-state tuition, financial aid, and employment when his/her DACA benefits expire. Members of the higher education community, including the American Council on Education (ACE) and  Association of American Universities (AAU), have criticized the Administration’s decision to end DACA.

DACA is a program implemented in 2012 under the Obama Administration. It has provided relief from deportation to approximately 700,000–800,000 individuals who would otherwise be in the country unlawfully. Under DACA, beneficiaries removal (aka deportation from the U.S.) is deferred during the duration of the program. Once the program ends, beneficiaries revert back to their original status and may be subject to removal from the U.S. for being unlawfully present in the country. The DACA program provides recipients renewable two-year term benefits, including an employment authorization document (EAD).  According to the DHS, DACA beneficiaries will be allowed to retain both their DACA status and their EAD until they expire. DACA-issued benefits are due to expire this year, in 2018 and 2019. On a limited basis, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will adjudicate properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for EADs which were filed and accepted as of September 5, 2017. Certain pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs where beneficiaries benefits will expire between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, will be adjudicated if the renewal request is filed prior to October 5, 2017.

It is important to note that DACA beneficiaries are lawfully able to be in the U.S. and work for the duration of the program as the program is being phased out and not ended effective immediately. 

Additional resources provided by DHS:

Suspension of Non-immigrant Visa Operations in Russia Impacts Students (August 2017)

On August 21, 2017, the State Department announced that — due to the Russian government’s cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia — all  nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning on August 23, 2017.  Operations will resume at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on September 1, 2017, but visa operations at U.S. consulates will remain suspended indefinitely. Because NIV interviews will be conducted only at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and due to reduced staffing levels to comply with the Russian government’s cap on personnel, NIV applicants can expect delays in their interview process as well as travel to Moscow unless they are local. NIV interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice.

For international students this means that currently scheduled appointments will be cancelled and applicants will be provided instructions on how to reschedule. The U.S. Mission began cancelling current NIV appointments countrywide on August 21.  Affected students should have received an email with a phone number to call to reschedule their interview at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow at a future date. According to the State Department’s Fact Sheet, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is planning to offer a block of visa appointments to international students in early September.

For rescheduling of NIV interviews and other questions, contact: +7 (495) 745 3388 or 8 800 100 2554 (ITFN).

To learn more about this recent update and what it means for students studying or seeking to study in the United States, click here.

Supreme Court Ruling (June 2017)

In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to allow partial implementation of the United States President’s executive order on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and said they would give full consideration to the matter during the October term to determine the legality of the President’s executive order. While allowing the Administration to implement portions of the executive order, the Court also narrowed the scope of the travel and refugee bans. Guidance is starting to emerge which will hopefully provide a clearer picture of what the higher education community, especially international candidates who may or are applying to U.S. schools and students presently studying in the United States can expect now that a limited version of the President’s travel ban will take effect. Bottom line is that the travel ban being implemented by the Administration appears to most directly affect individuals without a valid visa. Although having said that, the ban does not prohibit issuance of a visa during the 90-day period if the individual can demonstrate a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States, such as a university.

Executive Order (March 2017)

On March 6, 2017, a United States Executive Order was issued announcing updated policies restricting travel to the United States by individuals from certain countries. Of immediate concern for international students and faculty is that the updated executive order will temporarily ban individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for a period of 90 days from the effective date of the order, which is March 16, 2017.

The U.S. government constantly reviews and refines its procedures, and we anticipate this situation will continue to evolve. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the owner and administrator of the GMAT® exam, is closely tracking the orders and resulting legal challenges and we are committed to keeping our education community informed.

The executive order is entitled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.  It revokes the prior executive order (EO 13769) signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, which was on hold as a result of litigation.

Highlights of the new order include:

  • Institutes a 90-day suspension of entry to the United States from citizens of the 6 countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen.   
  • Individuals from Iraq are not included on this list. 
  • The travel ban will apply to foreign nationals of the designated countries who are (i) outside the United States on the effective date of the order; (ii) did not have a valid visa as of January 27, 2017; and (iii) do not have a valid visa as of the date of this executive order. 
  • The executive order does not apply to lawful permanent residents (valid holders of U.S. “green cards) and certain other categories of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States.

Background Information on This Executive Order

  • To read information posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security click here; and also read Homeland Security Secretary Kelly’s statement on the executive order; as well as the Fact Sheet and Q&A released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (These documents were posted in March 2016.)
  • According to the Fact Sheet, the executive order will affect travel by nationals of the six countries as follows – “For the next 90 days, foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen who are outside the United States on the effective date of the order, do not currently have a valid visa on the effective date of this order, and did not have a valid visa at 5:00 eastern standard time on January 27, 2017, are not eligible to travel to the United States. The 90-day period will allow for proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals.”  Again, the “effective date” of the order is March 16, 2017.
  • The Executive Order does not apply to individuals who are within the United States on the effective date of the Order or to those individuals who hold a valid visa. Visas which were provisionally revoked solely as a result of the enforcement of Executive Order 13769 are valid for purposes of administering this Executive Order. Individuals holding valid F, M, or J visas may continue to travel to the United States on those visas if they are otherwise valid.
  • The Executive Order does not affect F, M, or J visa holders if they currently have a valid visa on the effective date or held a valid visa on January 27, 2017 prior to the issuance of the Executive Order. With that said, travelers must have a valid visa to travel to the United States, regardless of the Executive Order.  Travelers whose visa expires after the effective date of the Executive Order must obtain a new, valid visa to return to the United States.
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