Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation for Al-Nursah Front Amended

Foreign Terrorist OrganizationUnder section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Secretary of State has the authority to designate an organization as a Foreign Terrorist Organization if the organization meets certain requirements. To qualify under section 219(a)(1), the organization must:

  • Be a foreign organization; and
  • Engage in terrorist activity as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B) or in terrorism as defined by 22 U.S.C. 2656f(d)(2), or retain the capability or intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism; and
  • Engage in or retain the ability to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism that threatens the security of United States nationals or the security of the United States.

The INA contains both inadmissibility and deportability provisions for those involved in a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In this article, we will examine the designation of the Al-Nursa Front with its many aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Al-Nursa Front is a Foreign Terrorist Organization primarily active in Syria, but also active in Iraq and several surrounding states. On November 14, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry amended the designation of the Al-Nursa Front to encompass aliases that were not included in its previous designations.

History of the Designation of the Al-Nursa(h) Front

In a Federal Register Notice issued on December 11, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded after consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury that al-Qa'ida in Iraq, which had already been designated as a terrorist organization under section 219(a)(4)(C) in 2004, had additional aliases. These aliases were:

  • al-Nursah Front;
  • Jabhat al-Nursah;
  • Jabhet al-Nursa;
  • The Victory Front;
  • Al Nursah Front for the People of the Levant.

Accordingly, then-Secretary Clinton extended the designation of al-Qa'ida in Iraq to cover these additional aliases. See 77 FR 73732, 12/11/2012 [PDF version].

On May 15, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a Federal Register Notice further extending the designation of the Al-Nursah front. The Secretary, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, concluded that there existed a sufficient factual basis to find that the relevant circumstances listed in section 219 of the INA existed with the respect to the Al-Nursah Front and its various aliases for it to be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The aliases specifically noted in this Notice were:

  • Jabhat al-Nursah;
  • The Victory Front;
  • Al-Nursah Front for the People of the Levant;
  • Al-Nursah Front in Lebanon;
  • Support Front for the People of the Levant; and
  • Jabaht al-Nursa li-Ahl al-Sham min Mijahedi al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad.

See 79 FR 27972, 05/15/2014 [PDF version].

On November 14, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a new Federal Register Notice (Public Notice: 9787) amending the previous designations of the Al-Nursah Front to include new aliases. This was done through section 219(b) of the INA. The Secretary reviewed the Administrative Record with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury in reaching his conclusion. The aliases added in this notice are as follows:

  • Jabhat Fatah al-Sham;
  • Jabhat Fateh al-Sham;
  • Fateh al-Sham Front;
  • Fateh Al-Sham Front;
  • Conquest of the Levant Front;
  • The Front for liberation of al Sham;
  • Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant;
  • Front for the Liberation of the Levant; and
  • Front for the Conquest of Syria.

See 81 FR 79554, 11/12/2016 [PDF version].


Being involved with a Foreign Terrorist Organization will generally be fatal to an alien immigration prospects. Section 212(a)(3)(B) of the INA contains various inadmissibility grounds for involvement with such organizations, and section 237(a)(4)(B) contains a deportability provision for aliens described by section 212(a)(3)(B) [see article]. If an alien is charged as inadmissible or deportable due to terrorist activities, it is imperative that he or she consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately.

The Al-Nursa Front is is also central to the current debate over the United States' refugee policy and general immigration policies for Syria, Iraq, and other countries in the region affected by the conflict.