Trump’s immigration order, which prevents entry to the United States from six predominantly Muslim nations including Iran, Libya and Syria, has had impacts across the world. Mostly affecting foreign nationals and their families, there have been highly publicized debates over the legality and ethics of this travel ban: many families have been fragmented and many more innocent people punished for the actions of a minority.
The ban, however, also has key economic ramifications and, for international companies that operate from or within the US and these blacklisted countries, large effects on the mobility of employees. The largest effect comes in the form of a 90-day visa ban for all foreign nationals from the countries listed on the State Sponsor of Terrorism and Country of Concern lists. While exceptions can be made on a case by case basis, this will be no easy task to accomplish. Not to mention there is no clear line on how this will affect non-U.S. dual citizens of one unaffected country and one affected country. Presumably if they use their passport that pertains to the unaffected country, they should be granted entrance into the U.S., but the matter remains officially unresolved.
While there still remains no obvious impact on the companies who are based in the Middle Eastern or African nations affected by the order, there is almost guaranteed to be some impact. There has been limited formal response from the governments of the affected nations and whether they intend any reciprocal action. Most citizens of these countries have taken offense, suggesting that the ban is very much a “Muslim ban” and that the actions of the U.S. government are only leading to destabilize an already precarious international political and economic climate.
Business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, including the senior figures in Google, Facebook, Uber and Microsoft, have been voicing their opposition to the ban. Many of these corporations have employees who are directly affected, for whom their legal, security and HR teams are working tirelessly to support. Google reported that at least 187 employees were directly affected by the ban. But these leaders don’t just fear for their current employees. Many of them, for whom their businesses depend on advancements in technology, fear that the travel ban is also a barrier for future talent and is likely to discourage many skilled workers from immigrating to the U.S. with their talents.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia, the two largest Middle Eastern traders with the U.S., are noticeably absent from the list of banned countries, however, which remains at least one positive for the mobility of many international corporations who operate in both the U.S. and the Middle East. There are, however, no official quantifiable figures yet to demonstrate whether the impact of the ban on trade has been as negative as its impacts on diplomacy, and the political and ethical motivations for not including these two nations remains a separate area for debate.
Sending employees between the Middle East and the U.S. is certainly now more complicated, especially as the Visa Interview Waiver Program is also suspended indefinitely – regardless of nationality or country or residence, every applicant for a nonimmigrant visa will have to undergo an in-person interview. U.S. nationals might not experience any outright immigration ban since no other country has issued reciprocal action, business with the Middle East is likely to see a decline as respect for the country also decreases. These are surely turbulent times and the results of this ban on trade and relations with the Middle East is not yet completely clear. If your business is likely to be affected by the travel ban, it is still best to ensure that HR support any affected workers to the best of their ability and legal advice is sought, just in case those exceptions can indeed by made.