French people will theoretically not be affected by the immigration ban imposed on Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Somalian, Sudanese, Syrian and Yemeni citizens entering the United States, which was repealed on February 4. However, lawyers are telling French people with a dual nationality from any of these countries to stay alert.
After two weeks of protests and chaos at the borders, the U.S. State Department lifted the Trump administration’s immigration ban on Saturday, February 4. The citizens from the seven targeted Muslim countries are now free to enter the United States once again. In theory, French people are not affected. But their situation may become complicated if they “have a dual nationality from any of these countries,” says Sophie Raven, a New York-based Franco-American lawyer specialized in immigration issues. A Franco-Iranian or a Franco-Sudanese person, but also a French humanitarian worker who has travelled in Syria or a French journalist who has worked in Somalia, may encounter difficulties when entering the United States. “In these situations, each visa request will be examined on a case-by-case basis,” says Claire Degerin, a French lawyer living in California, also specialized in immigration law. “I advise my clients with links to any of the seven countries to travel to the United States as soon as possible, or avoid any unnecessary trips out of America.”
The Trump administration will struggle to reject all non-Americans at the border, but could make the conditions for obtaining temporary visas and green cards much stricter. In this “event,” which worries lawyers, Claire Degerin advises her clients to “strengthen their applications” by adding “as much additional information as possible.” For example, journalists applying for an I visa should add more press clips, while those seeking to obtain an O-1 visa should include an additional letter of recommendation.
H1B work visas require candidates to have a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s and be sponsored by an American employer, and should not be affected, according to the French lawyer. Congress defines the number of H1B visas authorized every year, which shields the work permit from hasty decisions made by the executive. The quota is not set to change, either: 86,000 H1B visas will be available for 2017. Based in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, Claire Degerin deals with between 2,000 and 2,500 H1B visa applications per year. “A significant swath of the U.S. economy depends on this type of visa,” she says. This is particularly true in the tech sector, and 127 major American groups, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, have already joined the legal battle against the presidential immigration ban.
As for the green card, lawyers cannot see how “Donald Trump could make the application process more difficult” than it currently is, and so far have not noticed “any slowing” in the processing of applications. “The situation is fluid for now,” says Sophie Raven. “But it could change very quickly.”
And she seems to be right. Sophie Raven has reported hearing “rumors” about the suspension of the visa waver program enjoyed by French people and citizens from 37 other countries. If this measure is accepted, French citizens will have to apply for a B1 or B2 temporary travel visa from the American embassy in Paris before flying to the United States.