Tens of thousands of visas were revoked under US President Donald Trump’s travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority countries, the state department said on Friday.
“Fewer than 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the executive order,” said William Cocks, a spokesman for consular affairs at the state department.
Earlier news reports, citing a government attorney at a federal court hearing, put the figure at more than 100,000 visas.
Cocks said the visas had been voided for now but may be restored without travellers needing to apply again once the ban is lifted.
“A provisional revocation means the Department of State has invalidated a visa for use to travel to the United States and apply for entry, but may restore the visa’s validity at a subsequent time without requiring the traveller to submit a new visa application,” he said.
“We will communicate updates to affected travellers following the 90-day review,” Cocks added.
The immigration executive order signed by Trump a week ago temporarily halted the US refugee program and imposed a 90-day suspension on people travelling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump said the measures would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.
Under President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, the United States added those seven countries as “countries of concern” under its visa waiver program, effectively toughening U.S. visa procedures for individuals who visited those places during the past five years.
Trump’s executive order was at least in part informed by those restrictions. The new president, who took office on Jan 20, went further by temporarily barring passport holders from those seven countries.
Under Trump’s order, people from the seven countries who hold dual citizenship would be allowed to enter the United States on the passport of a non-restricted nation.
The New America think thank says the largest majority of “jihadist terrorists” in the United States “have been American citizens or legal residents.” It added none of the deadly attackers since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks emigrated or came from a family that emigrated from one of these countries.
Foreigners on the visa waiver program killed no Americans in terrorist attacks in over 40 years, according to the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.