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OSA Responds to Immigration Ban

Report Travel/Immigration Issues 

OSA urges impacted members to contact us.

U.S. Government Modifications to Student and Exchange Visitor Program

On 6 July 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) modified temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools in the U.S.   Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program are prohibited from taking a full online course load while remaining in the U.S.  During the Spring and Summer semesters of 2020, an exemption to this rule had been provided due to COVID-19.  This would have eliminated that exemption for the Fall 2020 Semester.  Read ICE announcement.  However, on 14 July, at the start of the court hearing on the Harvard/MIT lawsuit, the judge announced that ICE had agreed to rescind the 6 July policy. OSA worked actively to oppose this policy as described below.

OSA Actions:

  • OSA signed onto a letter opposing the 6 July policy.  Read the letter.
  • OSA released a statement opposing the 6 July policy  Read OSA’s statement.
  • OSA signed onto an amicus brief, led by the American Physical Society and signed by 16 scientific societies, supporting Harvard and MIT's lawsuit to block the ICE decision.


Information on the 29 May 2020 Proclamation

On 29 May 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a "Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People's Republic of China" that suspends entry to the United States by Chinese nationals under an “F or J visa to study or conduct research in the United States, except for a student seeking to pursue undergraduate study” and who is connected to an entity that supports the “military-civil fusion strategy.”  For more specifics, read the proclamation.


OSA Signs onto Letter

On 20 May 2020, OSA joined with numerous science societies onto a letter sent to U.S. President Donald Trump  urging him "to prioritize the immigration of science and technology talent that will spur the scientific breakthroughs and economic growth of the United States that is needed for rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."  Read the letter.


Information on the 22 April 2020 Executive Order

On 22 April 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump released a new Executive Order “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak” to suspend issuance of immigrant visas for 60 days to people currently outside of the U.S. who do not have a current valid immigrant visa.  The new executive order does not apply to non-immigrant visas.  For specific limitations and exceptions, read the executive order.


Information on 31 January 2020 Immigration Ban

On 31 January 2020 U.S. President Donald Trump issued a “Proclamation on Improving Enhanced Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry” which prevents nationals of Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Burma (Myanmar), and Kyrgyzstan from entering the United States on immigrant visas beginning on 21 February 2020 at 12:01 am eastern standard time. This policy, like the 2017 policy, does not apply to individuals who seek nonimmigrant visas. The 2017 policy remains unchanged by this new Proclamation. The new policy does not apply to Special Immigrant Visas, meaning that nationals of these six countries may still apply for Special Immigrant Visas under the new policy. Only Diversity Immigrant Visas are suspended for Tanzania and Sudan nationals. A summary is given below.

This proclamation applies to foreign nationals of the designated countries who:

  • Are outside the United States on the applicable effective date of this proclamation (21 Feb 2020);
  • Do not have a valid visa on the applicable effective date of this proclamation; and
  • Do not qualify for a visa or other valid travel document under section 6(d) of Proclamation 9645.

Burma (Myanmar): Suspends the entry into the United States of nationals of Burma as immigrants, except as Special Immigrants. Additional information from the U.S. Embassy in Burma.

Eritrea: Suspends the entry into the United States of nationals of Eritrea as immigrants, except as Special Immigrants.

Kyrgyzstan: Suspends the entry into the United States of nationals of Kyrgyzstan as immigrants, except as Special Immigrants. Additional information from the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan.

Nigeria: Suspends the entry into the United States of nationals of Nigeria as immigrants, except as Special Immigrants.

Sudan: Suspends the entry into the United States of nationals of Sudan as Diversity Immigrants.

Tanzania: Suspends the entry into the United States of nationals of Tanzania as Diversity Immigrants.

For information specific to this Proclamation’s impact on your country please contact your local immigration service office, your country’s embassy or consulate in Washington, D.C., or the U.S. embassy in your country if one exists.

OSA is following the 2020 immigration ban closely. Check back for updates. View the OSA policy issue statements with content related to visas and travel: Statement of Support for the Recognition of the Human Rights of Scientists and Engineers and the Statement of Concern over Delays on the Issuing of Visas for Travel to the U.S.



The Optical Society's Responses to 2017 U.S. Immigration Bans

The Optical Society (OSA) expresses concern for the revised 6 March 2017 Presidential Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” and the impact it will have on scientific freedom. While OSA welcomes the exclusion of Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens will be barred from entering the United States as well as new exemptions added, we believe this order continues to pose a threat to scientific advancement and international collaboration.
Like its predecessor, Executive Order 13780 hinders scientists and their work by restricting their ability to enter the United States to study, attend conferences or pursue research interests. We reiterate our position that, while the need for strong safeguards to the national security of the United States has never been greater than in our current global geo-political climate, OSA once again encourages the Administration to take a more measured approach.
On 31 January 2017, OSA joined 182 other scientific societies on a letter to President Trump urging the Administration to rescind Executive Order 13769 and work in partnership with stakeholders to find a balanced approach to address national security and the need for scientific integrity. OSA remains committed to monitoring the situation and its potential impacts. However, in light of the uncertainty surrounding the new Executive Order, we urge OSA members whose travel is impacted by these orders to contact their embassies and refer to any materials provided by their government for guidance.  

Update on travel ban as of 27 June 2017:
On 26 June, the United States Supreme Court ruled that parts of President Trump’s so-called “travel ban” can go into effect now, and the court will consider the legality of the rest of the ban when it reconvenes in the fall.
The ruling:

  • Allows those traveling from or who are citizens of these six countries Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen with ties in the US to obtain visas.  This includes those visiting or coming to live with family members in the US, those attending a US university, a worker who accepted employment from a US company or a lecturer invited to address an American audience.
  • Denies those applying for visas who have no “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

President Trump had issued a memorandum to his Cabinet secretaries that should the injunctions be lifted, the ban will take effect 72 hrs from the ruling.

Update on travel ban as of 24 September 2017:

On 24 September 2017, the White House issued a new proclamation on visas and immigration.  The 24 September proclamation would impact nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. 

On 17 October, OSA joined with more than 70 other organizations to express concerns that the 24 September 2017 White House proclamation on visas and immigration could harm science and engineering in the US.  View the letter.

Contact us

If you have any questions please email or contact a member of the OSA government relations team directly:

David Lang
Senior Director, Government Relations
Brandy Dillingham
Specialist, Government Relations