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The special “exemption” for Australian dual nationals from Donald Trump’s tough new travel bans announced by the Turnbull government on Tuesday turns out not to be an exemption at all.
Dual nationals in nearly every other country across the world will in fact enjoy the same continued access to the US, according to a new statement from the US embassy to Fairfax Media.
Following days of global confusion about how the bans would apply, including whether Australians who also hold the citizenship of one of seven listed terror-prone countries would be affected, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Tuesday morning Australians would not be affected.
He issued a joint statement with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop titled, “Turnbull government secures US exemption for Australian passport holders”.
But a US embassy spokesperson told Fairfax Media on Wednesday: “This executive order does not restrict the travel of dual nationals from any country, so long as they hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid US visa, if required.”
That comment came under the heading, “dual nationals of all countries, special rules for certain countries’ dual nationals”, meaning there are no special rules for Australia as has been widely reported.
In a Sky News interview earlier on Tuesday to announce the news, Mr Turnbull did not use the word “exemption” but did strongly suggest that Australia had been given special treatment by the US.
“We have a very strong relationship with the United States. We work very closely with them. We have very strong relationship with the new administration and we are very engaged,” he said.
“My job is to get results for Australians and that’s what I have done today.”
He said Australia’s ambassador to Washington, Joe Hockey, spoke to White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn on Monday night Australian time and was given the assurance then that Australian dual nationals would not be affected.
It is possible that at this time Australian officials still considered this an exemption given the State Department said earlier in the week that dual nationals would be affected.
The assurance may also have meant that at least for a period around Tuesday, Australian travellers who had dual citizenship with one of the blacklisted countries had greater certainty if they were headed to the US.
Mr Turnbull’s office has been contacted for comment.
US officials had reportedly been applying the executive order – which bans citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen from entering the US for the next three months – as though it did apply to dual nationals.
However, a statement from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, issued on Sunday well before the Australian statement, did not use the word “exemption” for British dual nationals but rather stated it was able to “clarify” the situation.
It stated that the “the presidential executive order only applies to individuals travelling from one of the seven named countries”.
Similarly, Canada’s government, which was also widely reported to have been given an exemption, never actually used that word.
According to the State Department spokesperson, dual nationals of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Sudan cannot get visa waivers, the same as before the executive order. Dual nationals of Yemen, Libya and Somalia can get visa waivers unless they have travelled to any of the listed countries since March 2011.
The story Australia has not been given a preferential ‘exemption’ from Donald Trump’s US visa ban first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.