Jamie Kerr, immigration law partner at Thorntons, discusses the US visa ban and ponders what impact it might have in the UK.
US President Donald Trump has kick started his Presidency by signing a controversial Executive Order which effectively bans those “from” seven majority Muslim countries entering the United States. The countries named in the ‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States’ Order are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
The order created widespread chaos at international ports and airports with confusion as to who the order actually applies to. Does it apply to dual nationals? Does it apply to those with US residency rights? Does it apply to those transiting through US airports?
Initial indications from the White House made clear that it applied to everyone from those countries regardless of any other factors. The only exemptions were diplomats and those on special visas to work for international organisations (such as the UN/World Bank etc).
The UK Prime Minister initially took the cowardly view that how the US treats people is their business and certainly not ours. Perhaps as the first foreign leader to have been received by President Trump, she simply thought it would be impolite to criticise someone who had fed and watered her just hours before he signed the Order that was to send shockwaves around the world.
Over the weekend, we realised that Sir Mo Farah CBE, our champion athlete who was born in Somalia, would be banned from entering the US to visit his family who live there as he was “from” Somalia. Then we realised that a leading Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi would also be banned as he was born in Baghdad. The thought of Tory MPs being deemed to be a danger to the public and being banned from entering the land of the free was enough to force the UK Prime Minister to shift her position to a still less than ideal one where the UK Government “does not agree” with the ban.
The UK Foreign Office has just issued a statement saying that they had been assured that the Order would not apply to dual British nationals, though that has yet to be confirmed publicly by any official US source. In the meantime, we should ponder the impact that the Order has it has on the 250+ million people “from” the seven countries affected and remember that it not only applies to refugees - it also applies to investors, entrepreneurs, academics, doctors and a full swathe of highly skilled and talented people with extensive business interests in the US.
Perhaps now would be a good time to remind the world, particularly the Arab world, that despite Brexit, Scotland and Britain remain open for international trade, talent and commerce and if the US don’t want it, then we will happily have it.