Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government has provided some clarity: Canadian passport-holders have the right to travel to the United States, despite days of confusing, contradictory messages about President Trump’s travel restrictions.
Four days after the order was announced, the American administration held its first detailed news conference Tuesday shedding light on who can still travel to the U.S. and who can’t – at least not until the order is reviewed in a few months.
The U.S. government confirmed publicly what it has privately told the Canadian government: that citizens of non-affected countries, including dual citizens, are exempt by the travel freeze on seven majority-Muslim countries.
It was a relevant question for about 35,000 Canadians. That’s how many have dual citizenship with the seven affected countries, and some of those Canadians may have jobs, families, and homes in the U.S.
“Travellers will be assessed at our border based on the passport they present – not any dual national status. So if you’re a citizen of the United Kingdom, you present your United Kingdom passport,” said Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. “The executive order does not apply to you.”
He made those remarks next to his boss, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. The newly named cabinet secretary said the order will be followed humanely.
The order still applies to temporary visitors with visas. Visa holders will be denied the right to board flights to the U.S., and sent to State Department representatives for additional instruction.
The order could be temporary, and will be reviewed in several months.
Early accounts were laden with confusion. The State Department stated that it applied to dual citizens. Some officials suggested it might also ban permanent U.S. residents. Those mixed messages sowed concern around the globe.
Airports were hit with protests, as hundreds of travellers were detained. McAleenan said about 721 travellers were denied the right to board planes among the 500,000 non-Americans travelling to the U.S.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) President & CEO David Scowsill issued a scathing statement following the order. “The Executive Order issued by US President Trump on 27 January 2017 banning travel to the US from seven countries for 90 days goes directly against the fundamental right of Freedom to Travel. It has created immense confusion among travellers and travel companies worldwide,” Scowsill said. “WTTC believes that all people have the right to cross international borders safely and efficiently for business and tourism purposes. The blanket suspension of admittance of travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen to the US flies against this principle.”
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) also lashed out, saying that “entry requirements for the United States were changed significantly and immediately … The [executive order] was issued without prior coordination or warning, causing confusion among both airlines and travellers.”
Tour operators have also issued statements, including Intrepid Travel, who said that it “stands against any policy that closes borders, separates families, discriminates against religion or demonizes the less fortunate.” The statement also said that the company “strongly urges the American government to reinstate the rights of migrants and foreign citizens to enter the United States.”
With file from the Canadian Press