Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visas Decline in 2017

Several Trump Administration policies– refugee program cuts, bans on country-specific travelers and extreme vetting– all contributed to 2017’s overall decline in the issuance of both immigrants and nonimmigrant visas. And although visas for travelers in all countries declined this year, the trifecta of policy measures served to fill President Trump’s campaign promise of implementing a Muslim ban.

The largest impact of Trump Administration policies fell on those counties singled out by the president as hotbeds for the fomenting of terrorist threats. The so-called travel ban introduced by President Trump included Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Currently, Iraq and Sudan have both been removed from the list. Chad was added to the list in September. For these countries, the collective monthly average of immigrant visa issuances collectively fell by 36 percent. The collective decline in temporary visas was even greater, falling 42 percent.

According to a report from the Cato Institute that cites statistics from the Department of State, the number of Muslim refugees and the number of Muslim travelers to the United States both fell in 2017.

Through November, the refugee side of equation fell by 94 percent– 11,000 Muslim refugees were admitted in 2017 compared to 45,000 who were admitted in 2016. Half of these Muslim refugees admitted in 2017 came into the United States in the months of January and February. Currently, Muslim refugees make up only about 10 percent of all refugees admitted to the United States. This compares to January when Muslims represented full half admitted refugees. Significantly, the 2017 drop in Muslim refugees runs counter to a decade-long trend. From 2007 to 2016, Muslim refugee admissions increased an average of 18 percent annually.

Declines in visa issuances to Muslim-majority countries outpaced decline levels to other countries. The Muslim-majority countries “saw their share of all immigrant visa issuances fall 3 percent and their share of temporary visa approvals by 15 percent.”

Along the same lines, Immigrant visas for the year are down, with almost 80 percent of the decline attributed to the targeting of the 8 Muslim-majority countries. However, on 14 percent of the drop in temporary visas can be attributed to these countries.

“These declines occurred despite court orders that barred full implementation of the travel ban until this month,” the December 12 report notes.

Additionally, “The decline in Muslim refugee admissions is almost entirely a consequence of policy,” wherein President Trump pledged prioritization of Christians. Although the number of Christian refugees from the countries has also declined, the Cato report argues the Christian priority manifested “by decreasing Muslim admissions.”

Other ramifications of Trump Administration immigration policies include a strong possibility of more detailed and complex immigration forms and requirements to support stated application claims, including such things as past addresses and jobs. Potential byproducts here include increased costs associated with applications, including creating the need to file with the help of a hired attorney. Other potential immigrants will simply delay visa applications indefinitely.

“During the last decade, majority Muslim countries have never—even during the recession—seen temporary visa issuances fall by more than 1 percent in a single year and immigrant visas never more than 7 percent,” according to the Cato report.

From 2007 to 2016, temporary visa approvals issued to nationals of the 8 Muslim-majority countries while permanent visas grew at a rate of 9 percent annually.

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