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Executive Order Frequently Asked Questions

The answers to these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) were prepared by the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at the Harvard Law School. The responses below are informational and do not constitute legal advice. Every case is different, and advice will vary depending on the individual circumstances of each student or staff member. Please note, below is an exerpt from the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Law Clinic FAQ which is in the process of being updated to reflect the Executive Order issued March 6, 2017.

If you are a non-U.S. citizen Harvard student with questions related to travel, please contact the Harvard International Office as soon as possible. We strongly recommend that you *do not* leave the country without first consulting an immigration expert at the Harvard International Office, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, or elsewhere.  In addition, all Harvard students, faculty, and staff should register their travel with the Harvard Travel Registry, available through Global Support Services.

If you are a current undocumented or DACAmented Harvard student, whether at the College or in a graduate program, please contact the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (hirc@law.harvard.edu) as soon as possible to set up an individual consultation.

My country is on the list, but I have to leave the United States. What should I do?

If you are a national from one of the six listed countries, or have travelled in the region, we strongly advise that you consult with the Harvard International Office, the Immigration and Refugee Clinic or a reputable immigration attorney prior to leaving the country.

What if I am asked to relinquish my green card or visa?

There are reports of individuals signing an I-407 (Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence Status). Do not sign anything if you are unsure of what the document is. If asked to sign anything, it is important that you ask to speak with an immigration attorney before doing so. We strongly encourage you to consult with the Harvard International Office or the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, or an experienced immigration lawyer, prior to traveling, and to keep the phone number for an immigration attorney on hand.


Can CBP ask me about my social media presence and my political preferences? What should I do if CBP asks to check my phone or laptop? 

The ACLU has prepared a “Know Your Rights” document for travelers, which addresses this question. There are reports that CBP is asking to look at traveler’s social media accounts and their personal technology devices, and according to the CBP website, CBP officers may search laptops, cell phones, or other electronic devices. It is important to note, however, that CBP may not select you for a personal search or secondary inspection based on your religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs.

U.S. citizens may be subjected to delay, questioning and device seizure for refusal to provide passwords or unlock devices, but cannot be denied entry to the United States. Noncitizens may, however, be denied entry. If your electronic device is searched or seized, write down the officer’s name and ask for a receipt for the property.

It is an open legal question whether you have a right to decline to provide passwords or unlock phones. Whether CBP has the authority to search electronic devices or files without reasonable suspicion that the devices contain evidence of wrongdoing — and for that matter, what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” for a CBP official — are also unresolved issues.

You should contact an attorney if you believe that your rights have been violated.


I believe I am being targeted because I’m Muslim. What rights do I have?

The ACLU has prepared a “Know Your Rights” document to help navigate this issue, which can be found here. Generally, all individuals have the right to be free from discriminatory questioning at the airport or border. CBP does, however, have the right to ask about your immigration status when entering or leaving the country. Noncitizens who refuse to answer officers’ questions may be denied entry into the United States. But CBP may not choose to question you because of your religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs.

U.S. citizens who are subject to intrusive questioning have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering but may be subject to delays or further inspection for refusal to cooperate. Green card holders may have the right to speak with a lawyer, depending on the situation. Non-citizen visa holders may also ask to speak with a lawyer but do not generally have the right to consult with an attorney before answering questions.

However, any individual — U.S. citizen or noncitizen — who is informed that he or she is under arrest or is suspected of having committed a crime has the right to speak to an attorney prior to answering any questions.


I am overseas and the airline won’t let me board the plane to enter the United States. What can I do?

If you do not have a valid visa to enter the United States, airlines will generally not allow you to come to the United States, unless the visa was canceled due to the Executive Order. If you believe that you have a valid visa to enter the United States and airlines are stopping you, you should contact a local immigration attorney to help you. Mass Legal Help also recommends that if you are a national of one of the six listed countries flying into Boston Logan, you should call 617-903-8943 or email executiveorder@fragomen.com  to speak with a lawyer.

If you had tried to enter the United States when the Executive Order was signed and you were stopped, the International Refugee Assistance Program can help with reentry. Contact them at airport@refugeerights.org, using the subject line “REENTRY.”

There is an app to connect with a lawyer in certain airports, including Boston, through AirportLawyer.org.

Please notify the Harvard International Office if you are a Harvard student or scholar traveling outside the United States and unable to re-enter or enter the United States.


Will my application for immigration benefits (i.e., green card or naturalization applications or other petitions) be put on hold because of the Executive Order?

Section 3 of the Executive Order states: “The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.”

An internal memo signed February 2 explains that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has interpreted this section to mean the following:

1.      The issuance of visas and other benefits to immigrants from the targeted countries “does not affect USCIS adjudication of applications and petitions filed for or on behalf of individuals in the United States regardless of their country or nationality.” In other words, if you are currently in the United States, your general applications and petitions before USCIS should remain unaffected.

2.      Applications to Register Permanent Residence and Adjust Status (I-485) may continue to be processed according to existing policies, even for nationals of the seven listed countries. However, Consular Processing (DS-260 applications) are affected by the Executive Order and interviews were cancelled in the aftermath of the ban.

3.      USCIS will continue to adjudicate Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions for all beneficiaries from any country currently in the United States. Further guidance is forthcoming for those outside of the United States.

4.      USCIS will continue to adjudicate affirmative asylum cases.


What if my existing immigration status will expire before the end of the review period, and I am from one of the banned countries?

Unfortunately, at this time, instructions regarding this particular scenario have not been provided by USCIS. The government has not made any announcements regarding renewals of status. This is a developing matter and more information will be forthcoming.


What is the status of my H1-B/Optional Practical Training under this new Administration?

There are a lot of proposals circulating for how to "fix" immigration, including the H-1B system and Optional Practical Training available to graduated students on F-1 visas. The White House may ask DHS to conduct a study of the visa process to determine which visa regulations may or may not be in the national interest, and to make recommendations how to improve visa systems, including the H-1B system.  Certain bills have been introduced in Congress to amend H-1B procedures also. Passing a law in Congress or amending federal regulations is time consuming, and the University is monitoring these efforts.  We can recommend americanimmigrationcouncil.org for good, updated information about developments.


How can I be an ally?

Offer to be a volunteer translator or tutor

Attorneys have asked for Arabic and Farsi translators at airports, and legal service organizations can benefit from the translation of other languages as well, especially Spanish. For those who can translate, refugee support organizations may have opportunities for you to tutor. For more opportunities, look here.  (Note that students and scholars on visas should first check with the HIO before accepting any paid positions.)

Learn about and support resources in your community

Support and connect with local organizations to find the issues that are affecting the community around you. There are many local organizations that are helping immigrants. You can find a list of some of them here.

Adopt a policy maker and speak up

Policy makers move on issues as a result of pressure that they face from their constituents. Make the process manageable by picking one or just a few politicians and setting a weekly time to call them.

●       Senators and House Representatives contact information: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state

●       Senate and House Committees on Homeland Security:

○       House Committee for Homeland Security: https://homeland.house.gov/full-committee/

○       Senate Committee for Homeland Security: https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/about?

●       State Attorneys General suing the Administration of President Trump over the Travel Ban:

○       Washington, http://www.atg.wa.gov/Contact-us

○       Massachusetts, http://www.mass.gov/ago/

○       Minnesota, https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/ContactUs.asp

○       Virginia, http://ag.virginia.gov/index.php/contact-us/contact-info

○       New York, https://ag.ny.gov/contact-attorney-general

●       There are several bills under discussion in the Senate to block Trump’s executive order:

○       http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/01/29/top-senate-democrat-announces-legislation-to-reverse-trumps-immigration-executive-order/

○       http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/316931-senate-dems-introduce-bill-to-block-trumps-refugee-order

○       The list of Senators and Representatives and their positions on Trump’s executive order:

■       http://www.npr.org/2017/02/01/512860167/congress-tracker-trumps-refugee-and-immigration-executive-order

March 21, 2017

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is prohibiting all passengers from carrying large electronic devices in the cabin of commercial aircraft on direct flights to the United States from the following airports:
• Amman, Jordan – Queen Alia International Airport
• Cairo, Egypt – Cairo International Airport
• Istanbul, Turkey – Ataturk International Airport (IST)
• Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
• Riyadh, Saudi ...

March 16, 2017

On March 15, 2017, the U.S. District Court in Hawaii issued a nationwide temporary restraining order, preventing the Government from enforcing the March 6th Executive Order 13780's 90-day entry bar and 120-day refugee entry bar, which had been scheduled to go into effect on March 16, 2017 ...

Personal Stories

I feel like there is a lot to learn and imbibe from people due to the vast diversity in the background, culture and personalities and also because the international folklore is quite large.  Hence, every other person I meet on campus has an amazing story to tell and an interesting background to share.

Sukanya PunthambakerIndiaHarvard Medical School

Every moment I spent at Harvard so far has been beautiful and it still feels unreal.It is great to be part of Harvard’s intellectually engaging community and every day spent here is an inspiration.

Ana-Maria ConstantinRomaniaHarvard College2016

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International population over time

International population this year