Canadian Law Group

The Travel Ban and its Impact on Canada

by Véronique Malka

The last week of June 2018 saw a big legal uproar in the U.S. when the Supreme Court of the United States upheld President Trump’s travel ban from certain Muslim countries. President Trump declared the decision a victory, while many in the world, especially in Canada, focused on the alleged discriminatory aspect of the decision and refused to consider the motives of national security behind that law.

Our Global Mobility Group’s co-chair, Véronique Malka, was interviewed on Canadian national radio [Canada 640 AM] by host Tasha Kheiriddin. Click here to listen to the radio interview.

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed President Trump’s travel ban executive order for seven countries that his administration believes pose a threat to U.S. national security. Véronique recommended to listeners that they read the Supreme Court’s decision for a full and better understanding of the intent behind Trump’s legislation. Click here to read the Supreme Court decision on the travel ban.

The countries involved in the ban are North Korea, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, and Venezuela. Iraq was previously included in the list, however, the U.S. government recognized that portions of the country remain active combat zones, making it more difficult for the national government to secure its borders. Moreover, the executive order states that “the close cooperative relationship between the United States and the democratically elected Iraqi government, the strong United States diplomatic presence in Iraq, the significant presence of United States forces in Iraq, and Iraq’s commitment to combat ISIS justify different treatment for Iraq.”

The executive order first began as a research conducted by Homeland Security, evaluating the risk factors of countries according to the following criteria: 1. The country’s identity theft rates and ability to maintain the integrity of passports and other national documents, 2. The extent to which the country keeps track of possible terrorist links in the country, and 3. Various indicators of national security risks, including the country’s reputation as a terrorist haven, and patterns of a lack of cooperation with countries wishing to prosecute those terrorists.

The research identified 16 countries as having dangerously high indicators of risk, according to the above-mentioned criteria, and the U.S. government contacted the officials of those countries, encouraging them to improve their practices within 50 days of the original notice. Half of the countries on the list provided the U.S. government with proof of improvements. As a result, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security determined that the remaining countries were to be identified as high-risk, and began the draft of the travel ban for the high-risk countries.

When the first version of the executive order was signed in January 2017, the week following President Trump’s inauguration, its sudden execution caused confusion and chaos at airports, and even sparked fiery protests from people outraged by what was quickly known as the “Muslim Ban”.

The ban was revised twice, and the third version of the executive order added Somalia to the list of high-risk countries, and presents different limitations for the countries on the list:

Iran: Only Iranians with valid student and exchange visitor visas can enter, and may encounter heightened screening when traveling to the United States.

Libya: Libyans can no longer enter the United States as immigrants, nonimmigrants, and business and tourist visa holders.

North Korea: North Koreans can no longer enter the United States, regardless of their intent of travel. This may change, in light of the positive outcome of President Trump and Kim Jong Un’s recent meeting in Singapore.

Somalia: Somalians can no longer enter the United States as immigrants.

Syria: Syrians can no longer enter the United States, regardless of their intent of travel.

Venezuela: Certain Venezuelan government officials can no longer enter the United States. Venezuelans that are not involved in the government may still enter with a valid visa.

Yemen: Yemenis can no longer enter the United States as immigrants, business and tourist visa holders.

Although this travel ban is controversial, it has been judged constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and travelers from the high-risk-countries must abide by the restrictions imposed by the executive order.

U.S. and Canadian permanent residents that are citizens of the countries on the list will not be affected by the ban, however, they may need to go through enhanced security before crossing the United States border.

These measures for the above-mentioned countries have been applied in the midst of several refugee crises, especially in Libya, Syria, and Somalia. Those who have already been granted asylum status in the United States are exempt from the ban, but considering the high refugee/asylum application numbers in the United States, the executive order will surely create issues for refugee seekers from the banned countries.  As of May 31, 2018, 43.12% of refugee arrivals in the United States since October have come from Africa. This significant number will only grow as the year continues to unfold, and may contribute to an increase in refugee applications in Canada, the United States’ neighbor in the North.

It is important to remember that foreign nationals that have fled their countries to seek refuge and now wish to apply for asylum in Canada are recommended to apply from the country in which they are currently living. Foreign nationals may apply for asylum from outside Canada if they are referred to the Canadian government by the United Nations Refugee Agency. (UNHCR)

These applicants are eligible for referral if they are currently living outside of their home countries, and cannot return there due to a well-founded fear of persecution, based on the following:

  1. Race;
  2. Religion;
  3. Political opinion;
  4. Nationality, or;
  5. Membership in a particular social group. Examples: gender, sexual orientation, etc.

If they do not meet these criteria, they may also be referred if they:

  1. Are outside of their home country, or the country where they normally live, and;
  2. They have been seriously affected by civil war or armed conflict, or;
  3. They have been denied basic human rights on an ongoing basis.

Foreign nationals who are already in Canada and wish to apply for refugee status must follow the necessary steps. The first is to apply at either a port of entry, such as an airport, seaport or land border, or apply at an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office. They must then complete the application package in full, and submit it to IRCC. If they are deemed eligible to make a refugee claim, the applicant will be given a hearing date, which they will need to attend for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to assess their claim.

Véronique predicts a surge in the numbers of people from the banned countries to find their way into Canada by foot or otherwise. In the past year, Canada has seen over 28,000 illegal migrants enter its border from the United States. This increase can be attributed to the stricter policies of the Trump administration in the U.S. and the foreigners’ fears on deportation to their home countries extends to reason that if the home country is on the banned list, those citizens are more likely to migrate North irregularly. In conclusion, Trump’s travel ban is expected to have a direct spillover effect on Canadian immigration, and we are at the edge of our seats to report on that impact.

Please stay tuned, and for more information about immigration options in Canada, contact or