How will the travel ban affect business in Northeast Ohio?

At the end of June, the Supreme Court partially lifted the injunction on enforcement of a travel ban created by President Trump's executive order. The order bans individuals from entering the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) unless they have close family ties to individuals living in the United States, are attending a university or have a job offer. The ban includes refugees. Although Northeast Ohio does not have huge numbers of visitors or immigrants from these countries, the ban has a significant impact on the region's educational institutions, hospitals and businesses.

Cleveland has a number of well-respected academic institutions with large international student populations. Although the ban has a student exception, international student applications have fallen across the country. While the ban affects only students from the six specified countries, it has a chilling effect on potential students from around the world. The reduction of applications is being felt particularly hard in graduate programs in engineering and computer science, in which international students have consistently accounted for over 50 percent. Foreign students feel unwelcome and insecure about the future of immigration policy in the U.S. These students bring money from their home countries for tuition, rent and living expenses. Even more important, these STEM students often stay in Northeast Ohio, providing a high-tech workforce and an economic engine for entire region. As a result of the travel ban, this talent will go elsewhere and will be forever lost.

The region's hospitals are among the finest in world and treat patients from all over the globe, including individuals from the six affected countries. In order to seek treatment is the U.S., foreign nationals from the banned countries need to seek a waiver to obtain a visa. Under the executive order, waivers will be decided on a case-by-case basis. To obtain a waiver, an individual must demonstrate that "denying the visa would cause undue hardship" and that "entry would not pose a threat to national security and would be in the (U.S.) national interest." Although the government has indicated that waivers may be appropriate for urgent medical care, it is silent regarding less than urgent medical treatment. Moreover, "urgent" is not clearly defined. This extra hurdle will have a chilling effect on those seeking medical care in Northeast Ohio. Medical tourism is big business in Cleveland and has a ripple effect across Northeast Ohio. Our medical centers provide jobs and the patients' families spend money in our community.

Business is also impacted. As refugees without family ties in the U.S. will not be allowed to enter the country for at least 120 days, businesses will lose access to this labor market. Refugees can be seen working around Cleveland in grocery stores, coffee shops and farms. At least one refugee settlement organization is on the verge of collapse resulting in more jobs lost. On the other end of the employment spectrum, individuals applying for business visitor visas to attend business conferences or other short-term, non-contractual business interactions may be unable to show "formal documented" relationships with U.S. entities and that the visit is in the national interest. The government made its position clear that "a hotel reservation, whether paid or not paid, would not constitute a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States."

If your business is expecting a visitor from one of the six affected countries, we can help prepare a package for the U.S. Consulate abroad in advance. If an application has already been made, we can contact the Department of State to seek information on status, reason for denial or reconsideration. You may contact either of us for assistance, by email or at (216) 621-7227.

—Karen Gabriel Moss

—Bradley L. Ortman