If You are Traveling Outside of the U.S. During the Holidays, This One’s for You
Travel warnings, extreme vetting, and the latest travel ban have made travel abroad more rife with concerns and challenges this holiday season.
If you will be carrying electronic devices during your travels, keep in mind that:
• At many airports, all electronic devices larger than a cell phone have to be inspected at security and must be taken out of your carry-on bags. This can lead to delays, so make sure you have plenty of time to clear the security checks.
• Even if you are a US citizen, your bags and electronic devices are subject to search upon returning to the US.
• Warrantless searches of electronic devices have increased greatly—by 125% since 2015, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The number of electronic device searches at the border began increasing in 2016 and has grown under the Trump administration. [The ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU of Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, for the District of Massachusetts, against the Department of Homeland Security, on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were searched without warrants at the U.S border.
Be mindful about whether your passport is signed, and contains emergency information, and be comfortable with the safety and stability of the places you are visiting, especially if you are a U.S. citizen:
• Make sure your passport is signed, that the emergency information is completed, and that you have the appropriate visa to enter the country you are traveling to.
• Frequently visit the Department of State website to stay on top of the travel alerts and travel warnings.
If you have to apply for a new U.S. visa, while abroad, in order to return to the U.S., keep the following in mind:
• Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s new ruling, President Trump’s Travel Ban 3.0 is in effect (at least until the lower courts finish issuing additional rulings). Individuals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen may be affected. On December 22, 2017, a three A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled unanimously that the ban exceeds the constitutional authority of the executive branch, and that the Trump administration has failed to prove that “nationality alone renders entry of this broad class of individuals a heightened security risk or that current screening processes are inadequate.” The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is considering a similar ruling out of Maryland. The U.S. Supreme Court has requested that both the Ninth and Fourth Circuit courts rule expeditiously to enable it to take up the case. It will likely wait on the Fourth Circuit opinion before it decides whether it will hear the appeal concerning the Travel Ban 3.0.
• Extreme vetting means more administrative processing. Administrative processing can result in delays of several days, weeks, or even months. Employees should inform their supervisors regarding their planned travel and have back-up plans for travel, lodging, and work should they experience a lengthy delay.
• Consulates are dealing with new guidance and procedures. This means that delays may occur just as a matter of course especially because the holidays are busy times at the Consulates.
• Make sure to check with the relevant Consulate and your airline to find out if you may need a transit visa to board your aircraft.
• Make sure to book an appointment at the Consulate as soon as possible before leaving the United States. Consulates may not have appointments available and may have limited holiday hours.
• Carry a signed employment verification letter along with other required documentation.
• Employees who have pending change-of-status or advance parole applications should not travel until after their case has been adjudicated. Under new guidance, travel during the pendency of an advance parole application can lead to a denial.
Be alert, be cautious, and have a safe and memorable holiday trip.