The instructions came in a cable from State Department headquarters, just after midnight ET on Friday.
Cancel appointments. Halt approvals. Post online “red banner” warnings. These are some of the new operating procedures US foreign service officers had to initiate when dealing with applicants from seven Muslim-majority countries who want a new life in the United States.
This weekend, a US government official familiar with President Donald Trump’s executive order gave PRI a portion of the unclassified missive sent to US consulates and embassies.
The order resulted in numerous detentions at US airports, triggering protests and chants against what critics consider a “Muslim ban,” although administration officials deny it is.
The news is developing quickly. Late Saturday, a federal court froze parts of the executive order, and, on Sunday, the White House apparently modified part of the regulations. But as of just after noon Sunday, consular personnel have not yet received new guidance, according to the official who spoke to us.
If the rollout of Friday’s order seemed hasty or disorganized to outsiders, the US government official also perceives a rather chaotic process unfolding — and seems uncertain what will come next.
“In terms of functional implementation of this executive order, State doesn't have the manpower to do it,” the official said to PRI in text messages on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
“And with the forced resignations at the top of the Consular Affairs Bureau there is a lack of leadership and experience to navigate this,” the official said, referring to one of the swift dismissals of several key State Department personnel that have been criticized by career diplomats.
“Add in the lack of consultation with State and [Department of Homeland Security] through the old [National Security Council] process and it's chaos.”
Some personnel didn't have specific instructions about what to do when green card holders, who are legal permanent residents, try to re-enter the US, the official added.
The Trump administration is rejecting the criticism. “The system actually worked very well,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Monday.
When asked about a dissent memo circulating the State Department, Spicer said, “I think they should either get with the program or they should go.” He added, “If somebody has a problem with that agenda, then that does call into question whether or not they should be in that post.”
What follows is parts two to 11 of a 12-point document. The official withheld parts one and 12 because of specificity to a department. (Some explanation of acronyms used can be found on this State Department page.)
2. (SBU) Suspension of entry into the United States for aliens from certain countries: The E.O. exercises the President's authority under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act suspending entry into the United States of aliens from the following countries for 90 days as of January 27, 2017: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, subject to some exceptions. Accordingly, visas may not be issued to such aliens at this time. Additionally, as such aliens will not be admitted to the United States under the Executive Order, the Department of State has provisionally revoked valid visas previously issued to any affected nationals. Posts do not need to take any action with respect to physically cancelling visa foils, entering revocations into the system, or contacting visa holders.
(U) Nonimmigrant Visas
3. (SBU) For nonimmigrant visa applicants, except those specified below, having any of these seven nationalities, posts should (1) halt interviewing these applicants immediately; (2) cease issuance and printing of NIVs for these applicants immediately; and (3) refuse under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) any of these nonimmigrant visa applicants who have been interviewed, but whose visa post has not yet printed. The same guidelines apply to the issuance of V92 cases for these seven nationalities. CA/EX has informed the GSS vendors to expect posts with GSS document delivery services to return un-adjudicated cases to the document delivery vendor. Certain dual nationals of these countries are included in this policy. This suspension of entry does not apply to those foreign nationals traveling on A-1, A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO, C-2 or diplomatic type visas, or to issuance of visas in those categories.
4. (SBU) Posts must cancel future nonimmigrant visa appointments for applicants of these nationalities. CA/EX has instructed the GSS vendors to post a "red banner" message on all GSS web sites, informing applicants of these nationalities to cancel their appointments. Non-GSS posts should post the same language on their websites. Non-GSS posts must manually cancel appointments for applicants of these nationalities in the CST appointment system. CA/EX has also instructed GSS vendors to directly cancel appointments for applicants who have self-identified as one of the listed nationalities, and to send an emergency email and SMS blast message with the same language to applicants with appointments scheduled in the next 14 days in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Ankara, Baghdad, Djibouti, Erbil, Khartoum, Riyadh, and Yerevan.
5. (SBU) GSS red banner message:"Urgent Notice: Per U.S. Presidential Executive Order signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to aliens from the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification. If you are a national, or dual national, of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time. If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND your appointment as we will not be able to proceed with your visa interview. Please note that certain travel for official governmental purposes, related to official business at or on behalf of designated international organizations, on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or by certain officials is not subject to this suspension. Please contact [vendor web site and call center contact info] to inform them of your appointment time and date and request cancellation. Please continue to monitor [vendor website and TSG] for further updates."
6. (SBU) MRV fee refunds: MRV receipts are valid for one year from the date of issuance. Generally, refunds are only permissible if the U.S. government committed an error in collecting the fee or under certain circumstances provided for in law or regulation (22 CFR 22.6, 22 CFR 42.71, 22 CFR 41.107, and 22 CFR 23.3). If officers are unsure about whether a refund can be granted, they should contact the CA Fee Team (CAFee-Team@state.gov).
(U) Immigrant Visas
7. (SBU) The National Visa Center (NVC) will attempt to contact all applicants from the restricted countries with scheduled immigrant visa (IV) appointments for February in order to cancel their appointments. In addition, NVC will not schedule nationals of these seven countries for March or April immigrant visa appointments. For diversity visa (DV) applicants scheduled for interviews between February 5 and March 31, the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) will notify applicants to check Entrant Status Check where they will see a message notifying them that their appointments will be rescheduled. NVC and KCC are unable to identify IV and DV applicants who may hold dual nationality with a restricted country but who are interviewing under the nationality of a non-restricted country for purposes of cancelling or postponing appointment scheduling. For applicants whom KCC and NVC are unable to contact, or otherwise unable to cancel or postpone, post should attempt to identify them at intake before their interview and notify them that their interviews must be rescheduled. Posts will need to cancel remaining January appointments for affected applicants.
8. (SBU) Post should not take biometrics or conduct an immigrant or diversity visa interview. It is very important that posts do not interview applicants affected by the E.O. If an applicant is not identified during intake as ineligible for an interview, but the officer determines they are affected by the E.O. during the course of the interview, the interview should be completed. The case should be refused pursuant to 221(g) and a request for an Advisory Opinion should be submitted to CA/VO/L/A. Please inform the applicant that the case requires administrative processing.
(U) Dual Nationality of Visa Applicants
9. (SBU) The Executive Order applies to dual nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Posts may encounter applicants who apply with a passport in one nationality but hold dual nationality with a restricted country. Individuals should be subject to the suspension if they possess a current passport from the restricted country, have been denied ESTA based on nationality in a designated country (but not on travel to the country without being a national of that country), or have otherwise identified themselves as nationals of a restricted county including on a previous application or in an interview, including as a dual national.
10. (SBU) The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is suspended for 120 days and indefinitely for Syrian refugee applicants. This includes the processing of boarding foils for any V93 cases, since those follow-to-join cases are admitted to the United States as refugees. Posts should halt the issuance of these V93 cases immediately. The Department will notify posts when the suspension is lifted.
11. (SBU) The Executive Order allows for exceptions to these suspensions for nonimmigrants, immigrants, and V92 cases on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest. For V93 cases, the exception is on a case- by-case basis and when admission is in the national interest and would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States. The Department is working with DHS and other relevant agencies to finalize guidance on these potential exceptions, and we will communicate it to posts once it is developed. In the meantime, posts should contact their VO/F post liaison officer during business hours or the VO Duty Officer after hours, to advise of exceptionally urgent or humanitarian cases. In addition, the Executive Order does not apply to those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas.