The US State Department refused more than 37,000 visa applications in 2018 due to the Trump administration’s travel ban, up from less than 1,000 the previous year when the ban had not fully taken effect, according to agency data released on Tuesday (Feb 26).
The United States denies nearly four million visa applications a year for a variety of reasons, including for practising polygamy, abducting children or simply not qualifying for the visa in question.
The data released on Tuesday was the first comprehensive look at the human impact of President Donald Trump’s ban, imposed shortly after he took office and initially blocked by federal courts.
The ban has especially affected people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, countries where the number of visas issued slid 80 per cent in 2018 from 2016, the last year without a travel ban.
In the fiscal year from Oct 1, 2017 through Sept. 30, 2018, citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – the five countries consistently on the travel ban list throughout its different iterations – received approximately 14,600 US visas.
That is down 80 per cent from approximately 72,000 visas issued for citizens of those countries in the 2016 fiscal year when no such ban was in place.
Trump’s initial January 2017 executive order banning entry to the United States by citizens of several Muslim-majority countries launched a fierce fight in federal courts over whether the policy amounts to an unlawful “Muslim ban” or is a legal exercise of presidential power.
In June 2018, the high court upheld a new version of the ban.
As a result, most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen have not been able to enter the United States for well over a year. Venezuela and North Korea also were targeted in the current policy, but those restrictions were not challenged in court.
The figures released on Tuesday show the government denied 15,384 applications for immigrant visas – given to those who want to live permanently in the United States – due to the “2017 Executive Order on Immigration.” A State Department spokeswoman confirmed that term referred to the travel ban policy.
In addition, 21,645 applications for non-immigrant visas – given to people coming for short-term visits for business, tourism or other reasons – were denied due to the ban.
The data did not include how many visa applications were made by citizens from countries affected by the travel ban.