CalTravel’s Position on the Immigration Executive Order

 CalTravel’s Position on the Executive Order 

Members may be getting questions on what CalTravel’s reaction is to President Trump’s executive order to ban travel from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. In matters of national tourism policy, CalTravel generally aligns with U.S. Travel’s positions, including in this case.

Following is a statement from U. S. Travel:

As we all know, there has been widespread controversy and confusion surrounding President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees. Since its release on Friday, U.S. Travel has been analyzing the implications for our industry. Our goal as a constructive partner is to determine a path forward on behalf of the travel community, working to minimize the impact on legitimate travel to the United States.

U.S. Travel’s Position
While we recognize the Trump administration’s intention to enhance national security, U.S. Travel’s policy is clear: We believe that increased security and increased travel can, and must, coexist. Travel and security are not opposing goals.

It is critical for our industry, our economy, and our national security to strike the right balance between enhanced security and measures that needlessly deter legitimate travel. It is equally critical that travelers possess accurate and clear information from official government sources regarding their ability to enter the U.S., leaving no question unanswered about their ability to visit.

As always, we must adapt to serve as effective advocates for our industry’s priorities while maintaining our core values. Our history of successful collaboration with government is grounded in mutual respect and understanding, and we’ll continue to operate under that premise. But, clearly, prolonged disruption would be contrary to facilitating the flow of legitimate international travel to the U.S.

What the Executive Order Does
The executive order includes several provisions that temporarily suspend or limit travel from various countries around the world. Among the most significant provisions for the travel community, the executive order:

  • Suspends entry to the U.S. for 90 days for nationals of seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen) traveling on immigrant and non-immigrant visas;
  • Calls for review of visa issuance procedures and information sharing on visa applicants from foreign governments. Countries not sharing information on visa applicants with the U.S. can be barred from receiving visas in the future;
  • Suspends the admission of most refugees for 120 days;
  • Bars refugees from Syria for an indefinite period;
  • Reduces the total number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. in FY 2017 to no more than 50,000; and
  • Requests expedited completion of biometric entry-exit tracking at ports of entry.

The purpose of the executive order is to give the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, the opportunity to review the current visa review process and determine: 1) what additional information is needed during the visa process to verify if an individual poses a national security threat; and 2) which countries are failing to provide that necessary information.

No Impact on the Visa Waiver Program
Many news outlets have incorrectly reported that the executive order suspends the Visa Waiver Program. This is not the case. The executive order does suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program, a distinct and separate program for countries where a visa is needed to travel to the U.S., which allows for visa renewal without an interview.

According to the U.S. State Department, this means that visa interviews are now required for all applicants except those that fit in the following categories:

  • Applicants under the age of 14 or above 79;
  • Applicants who held a visa in the same category that expired less than 12 months prior to the new application—a reduction from the previous 48-month period; and
  • Diplomatic and official visa applicants from foreign governments and international organizations.

This provision also means that first-time Brazilian and Argentinian applicants, ages 14-15 and 66-79, who were previously exempt, will now be subject to visa interviews.

What We’re Doing
U.S. Travel is committed to engaging on all fronts to protect the interests of the travel industry and ensure we strike the right balance between our national security and broader economic goals. Our specific actions include:

  • Reaching out to the Trump administration, Congress, the media, and other stakeholders to communicate both our industry’s alignment on security goals and the importance of international travel to our economy, and to ensure efforts to enhance national security do not harm legitimate travel.
  • Urging the administration to conduct its review quickly in order to return to admitting legitimate travelers.
  • Seeking clarity from the administration on the order’s impact on certain groups of travelers—for example, EU citizens with dual nationalities from the seven affected countries.
  • Reinforcing the broad benefits of Brand USA, which in times of controversy plays a critically important role in communicating official information and building positive perceptions of the U.S. as a desirable travel destination.
  • Educating the administration and lawmakers on the Visa Waiver Program as a key vehicle to facilitate secure international travel.
  • Assessing the impact of the current executive order on inbound travel from large international markets due to negative perceptions.

If your organization or destination is impacted by the executive order, CalTravel and U.S Travel is interested in knowing about it. Please share your story with me and I will send it to U.S. Travel.

We will keep you informed on this developing issue, and discuss it at our Winter board meeting February 15 in Sacramento. Details to register here. Any questions, please call me at 650-743-9936.