President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday making major changes to America’s policies on refugees and immigration.
Here’s a look at what Trump ordered:
Trump’s order directs the State Department to stop issuing visas to Syrian citizens and halts the processing of Syrian refugees. That will remain in effect until Trump determines that enough security changes have been made to ensure that would-be terrorists can’t exploit weaknesses in the current vetting system.
Trump ordered a four-month suspension of America’s broader refugee program. The suspension is intended to provide time to review how refugees are vetted before they are allowed to resettle in the United States.
Trump’s order also cuts the number of refugees the United States plans to accept this budget year by more than half, to 50,000 people from around the world.
During the last budget year, the United States accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the current refugee limit at 110,000.
The temporary halt to refugee admissions does include exceptions for people claiming religious persecution, so long as their religion is a minority faith in their country. That could apply to Christians from Muslim-majority countries.
Trump’s order did not spell out specifically what additional steps he wants to see the Homeland Security and State departments add to the country’s vetting system for refugees. Instead he directed officials to the review the refugee application and approval process to find any other security measures that can be added to prevent people who pose a threat from using the refugee program.
During the Obama administration, vetting for refugees included in-person interviews overseas, where they provided biographical details about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email accounts and more. They also provided biometric information, including fingerprints. Syrians were subject to additional, classified controls that administration officials at the time declined to describe, and processing for that group routinely took years to complete.
Trump’s executive order suspends all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. The State Department said the three-month ban in the directive applied to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — all Muslim-majority nations. The ban on U.S. travel from those seven countries, even temporarily, appears to at least partially fulfill a Trump campaign promise to ban Muslims from coming to the United States until assurances can be made that visitors are properly vetted. The order also calls for Homeland Security and State department officials, along with the director of national intelligence, to review what information the government needs to fully vet would-be visitors and come up with a list of countries that don’t provide it. The order says the government will give countries 60 days to start providing the information or citizens from those countries will be barred from traveling to the United States.
The temporary ban extends to citizens of those seven countries who hold U.S. visas or green cards. Anyone who was abroad when the executive order was signed is now barred from coming back to the country for at least three months. There is an exemption for people whose entry into the country is deemed in the nation’s interest, but it’s unclear how that exemption may be applied.
The State Department now requires interviews for all visa applicants, except for those under 14, over 79 or who previously held a similar visa that expired less than 12 months prior. Diplomats and other official applicants also are exempt. Previously, the interview requirement was waived for applicants applying within 48 months of expiration.
There are no changes to the Visa Waiver Program, under which citizens of 38 countries, most of them in Western Europe, can visit the United States for 90 days or less without a visa. As of 2015, however, visas are required for those who have visited any of the seven Muslim-majority nations of heightened terrorism concerns.