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What Canadian travellers need to know about U.S. travel ban upheld by the Supreme Court

Global News with Petra Molnar 26 June 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which doesn’t allow people from some predominantly Muslim majority countries to enter the U.S., has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The current version of the ban (announced in September) prohibits most people from seven countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela – from entering the U.S.

While the ban has been largely in place since December, a legal challenge continued until Tuesday when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold it.

Civil rights groups have denounced the ban, saying it amounts to religious discrimination, as five of the seven countries are Muslim-majority countries. Trump has said the ban was necessary for security reasons and to stop the spread of terrorism to the U.S.

Canadians who are permanent residents and are from the countries affected by the ban will now have to apply for a “waiver” to enter the United States.

“Case-by-case waivers could be appropriate in circumstances such as the following… the foreign national is a landed Canadian immigrant who applies for a visa at a location within Canada,” the executive order reads.

However, it’s not clear what the case-by-case exceptions may or may not be.

What a “waiver” could look like also remains unclear. Currently, Canadians travelling to the U.S. with criminal records need waivers to get across the border. When the policy was announced, American immigration lawyers told Global News the waivers can cost USD $585 and take roughly six months to be issued.

The Canadian government advises that those travelling to the U.S. contact the U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm entry requirements.

According to the order, waivers “could” be granted if “the foreign national has demonstrated to the officer’s satisfaction that denying entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship, and that his or her entry would not pose a threat to national security and would be in the national interest.”

Canadian immigration lawyer Petra Molnar said the wording in the executive order allows it to be “very discretionary.”

“So it will really depend on your country of origin, what type of visa you’re applying for, what you’re wanting to do in the [United] States,” the lawyer and researcher with the International Human Rights Program at University of Toronto told Global News.

“At the end of the day, you know the power of sovereignty is such that the United States can always deny you entry.”

Canadians with dual citizenships involving any of the named countries are not expected to be affected by the ban.

However, there may be some issues if you’ve been to one of the named countries, Molnar said.

Again, that’s because of the discretionary nature of the rules.

“You can always be turned away based on your travel history. I’ve had that done to me because I’ve worked in some of those countries,” Molnar explained.

She recommends making thorough preparations for border crossings – whether that’s preparing additional documents or allotting additional time for screenings.

Molnar also said the court ruling could cause confusion and delays at the border – and even those with a Canadian passport could be affected.

“It’s basically going to cause widespread confusion, both from the policy and operational side,” Molnar said.

That could mean “huge lines, for example, and extra questioning and searching. And that is always the potential now, being denied entry into the United States.”

Recently released internal notes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reveal Canadian government officials didn’t understand the impact of the ban either.

The notes show officials fired off a list of 16 detailed questions with the aim of figuring out the order’s impact on everything from refugee claims to biometric tracking.