Visa Sanctions Triggered Against Four Countries Deemed Deficient in Accepting Return of Nationals

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On August 22, 2017, Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had exercised its authority under section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to trigger visa sanctions against four countries found to be recalcitrant in accepting the return of their nationals [link].1 In accord with the statute, the DHS notified the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which will have responsibility for imposing the visa sanctions.

Section 243(d)

Although both the DHS and DOS declined to name the four countries, Dinan reported that the countries affected are Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Prior to the instant use of section 243(d), the authority had only been used twice: first by the Bush administration against Guyana in 2001 and second by the Obama administration last year against Gambia. In both cases, the visa sanctions were narrowly targeted against government officials and family members thereof. However, it is important to note that section 243(d) provides authority to issue far-reaching sanctions.

President Donald Trump made this an issue during his presidential campaign [see blog] and addressed it in his January 25, 2017 Executive Order on interior enforcement [see article]. At the end of 2016, over twenty countries were listed as being recalcitrant in accepting the return of their nationals. However, as of May 2017, the only twelve were determined to still be problematic. In addition to the Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the following nine (counting Hong Kong) were also listed as being non-compliant as of May 2017:

  • Burma
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Hong Kong
  • Iran
  • Laos
  • Morocco
  • South Sudan
  • Vietnam

It is worth noting that Iran is subject to separate visa restrictions under President Trump's Executive Order 13780 [see article].

It remains to be seen what are the extent of the sanctions imposed on Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone and whether they will bring the four countries into compliance. In general, anyone facing removal from the United States should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance. We will update the website with more information on these developments as they become available.

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  1. Dinan, Stephen. “Trump to stop travel from countries that refuse to help Homeland Security.” The Washington Times. Aug. 22, 2017. Washingtontimes.com
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