President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban will morph into a new set of restrictions on travelers from an expanded set of countries, U.S. officials announced Sunday night as major parts of the order were close to expiring.
The current policy, which denies visas to citizens of six majority Muslim countries, will be replaced by a new set of travel limits on eight countries, including all but one of those on the previous list. The nations facing indefinite travel restrictions under the new policy are Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, officials said Sunday.
Existing visa-holders are exempt, and waivers will remain available for travelers with U.S. ties, although those exemptions appear to be narrowed in the new directive.
One country on the current list, Sudan, was dropped from the restricted roster — effective immediately. The new countries and the revised waiver policy are set to take effect Oct. 18.
“We are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States,” Trump said in a statement. “We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country. My highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred obligation.”
“Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening.
Earlier in the day, as he prepared to return from his New Jersey golf club to the White House, Trump was asked what provisions he wanted to see in the latest set of travel restrictions.
“The tougher the better,” Trump said, without elaborating.
While the new proclamation restricts some travel from two non-Muslim countries — North Korea and Venezuela — those limits seem largely symbolic.
Only about 110 North Koreans got visas to travel to the U.S. in the last fiscal year. The new restrictions on Venezuela apply only to government officials, not to the broader population, and could have been imposed without including them in the new travel ban proclamation.
A Trump administration official who briefed reporters Sunday evening said the changes were not aimed at making the policy appear less like the “Muslim Ban” Trump promised during the presidential campaign.
Trump issued his first travel ban order one week after he took office in January, banning travel to the United States by nationals of seven majority Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Announced with immediate effect, it triggered widespread protests at U.S. airports and significant confusion about its application, particularly to green card holders.
Many critics said the measure was a thinly veiled version of the Muslim ban Trump championed during the presidential campaign. After courts blocked key parts of the first directive, Trump issued a new order in March dropping Iraq from the list of targeted countries and removing other language that courts suggested indicated religious animus. He also excluded existing visa and green cardholders from the impact of the suspension.
The revised order still encountered quick resistance from the courts, which issued injunctions against aspects of the ban.