by Michael J. Shapiro | July 11, 2018
The United States Department of Homeland Security and Department of State have imposed visa sanctions on Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Laos, in retaliation for the countries' lack of cooperation in accepting their own citizens who have been ordered removed from the U.S. The DOS has suspended the issuance of B1 and B2 nonimmigrant visas, for business and leisure travel, respectively, to government officials from those countries. The suspension is effective immediately and will remain in place until the DHS determines that the countries have improved their cooperative efforts; without what the DHS terms an "appropriate response" from the countries, the scope of the sanctions could be expanded to a wider population.
"The decision to sanction a recalcitrant country is not taken lightly," according to a statement from the DHS. "As a general matter, recalcitrant countries who refuse to issue travel documents render meaningless the United States' entire removal process as enacted by Congress in the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act], and such countries also fail to meet their international treaty obligations to take back their nationals who have been ordered removed."
According to the DHS, by delaying processes or outright denying to issue travel documents to some citizens, both Myanmar and Laos have forced U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release their nationals, as ICE is not allowed to detain them for more than six months. "ICE has been required to release Burmese and Lao nationals into the United States," according to the statement, "some with serious criminal convictions."
The specific sanctions are as follows:
Myanmar: As of July 9, 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) has discontinued the issuance of all B1 and B2 nonimmigrant visas for current officials at the director general level and above from Mayanmar's Ministries of Labor, Immigration and Population, and Home Affairs, and their immediate family members, with limited exceptions.
LAOS: As of July 9, 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane has discontinued the issuance of all B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas for current officials at the director general level and above from the Lao Ministry of Public Security as well as their immediate families; and all A3 and G5 nonimmigrant visas to individuals employed by Lao government officials, with limited exceptions.
The specifics of the suspension can be changed at any time, according to the State Department, which can either expand or restrict the scope of those affected by the sanctions. Myanmar and Lao nationals planning to travel to the U.S. should monitor the situation.