President Donald Trump has said the US would soon be imposing visa restrictions on more countries.
Seven additional nations were listed in a draft of the proposed restrictions – but the countries were notified by Homeland Security officials that they could avoid being included if they make changes before the announcement is made.
The tentative list featured Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Burma, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
But several countries are believed to have taken action or demonstrated good faith efforts to comply in order to avoid inclusion, officials said.
We’re adding a couple of countries to it. We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe.
The steps include better border security, better sharing of identification information among nations and better travel document security. It is not clear how many nations will be on the final list.
Mr Trump told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he is doing it to protect the United States.
He said: “We’re adding a couple of countries to it. We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe. You see what’s going on in the world. Our country has to be safe. So we have a very strong travel ban and we’ll be adding a few countries to it.”
Countries currently included in the ban
- North Korea
Five of the countries on the draft list have either Muslim majorities or substantial Muslim minorities.
The current ban suspends immigrant and non-immigrant visas to applicants from five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.
But it allows exceptions, including for students and those who have established “significant contacts” in the US. And it represents a significant softening from Mr Trump’s initial order, which had suspended travel from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, blocked refugee admissions for 120 days and suspended travel from Syria.
That order was immediately blocked by the courts, prompting a months-long effort by the administration to develop clear standards and federal review processes.
Under the current system, restrictions are targeted at countries that Homeland Security says fail to share sufficient information with the US or have not taken necessary security precautions, such as issuing electronic passports with biometric information and sharing information about travellers’ terror-related and criminal histories.
Iraq, Sudan and Chad had been affected by the original order, which the Supreme Court upheld in a 5-4 vote after the administration released a watered-down version intended to withstand legal scrutiny. They were not part of the pared-down version.
During his 2016 campaign, Mr Trump had floated the idea of a ban to keep all Muslims from entering the country and he criticised his Justice Department for the subsequent changes.