Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran are significantly impacting the ability of Iranian nationals to immigrate to, or remain in, the United States. Most recently, on January 23, 2020, USCIS announced via notice in the Federal Register that, due to the Oct. 3, 2018, termination of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights with Iran, Iranian nationals are no longer eligible to extend their E-1 (Treaty Trader) or E-2 (Treaty Investor) status with USCIS. A fundamental requirement for E visa classification is citizenship of a country that maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S. Due to termination of the treaty, USCIS states that they will send Notices of Intent to Deny pending E-1 or E-2 extension or change of status applications.
On October 3, 2018, the Trump administration announced the United States’ withdrawal from its 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran which affirmed friendly relations between the two countries.
Due to the termination of the treaty, USCIS will send Notices of Intent to Deny to affected applicants who filed applications after the Department of State’s Oct. 3, 2018, announcement and whose applications remain pending. Iranians currently holding and properly maintaining E-1 or E-2 status may remain in the U.S. until their current status expires.
Termination of the treaty also renders Iranian citizens ineligible to obtain new E-1 or E-2 visas at U.S. Consulates abroad. However, that fact is largely irrelevant as most Iranian citizens remain subject to a travel ban put in place by the September 24, 2017 Presidential Proclamation which renders them ineligible to receive any type of visa other than as a student or exchange visitor.
Iranian nationals who already were in the United States in a nonimmigrant status on the date the travel ban was promulgated may remain in the country if they are eligible to maintain status; however, if they depart the U.S. for any reason it is extremely unlikely that they will be permitted to return. Families are thus being kept apart and individuals who are able to remain in the U.S. to work or go to school pursuant to a valid status face terrible choices in the event that loved ones outside the United States fall ill or die; if they go home to visit or attend a funeral, they may never be able to come back to their homes and livelihood in the U.S.
Iranian nationals who remain eligible to enter the U.S. (e.g., because they are Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States or dual nationals entering the U.S. on the passport of another country—both of which categories are exempt from the travel ban), may still face additional questioning at the port of entry to ensure they do not pose a threat to the United States. The media widely reported that on January 5, 2020, dozens of individuals born in Iran but eligible for entry to the U.S. as citizens or permanent residents were detained at the ports of entry in Washington state for detailed screening, apparently because of their national origin and because of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. The New York Times quoted former CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske as stating, “agents would put an added emphasis on a traveler’s country of origin when that nation was singled out as a national security threat.”
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