President Trump is directing the secretaries of state and homeland security to find ways to combat visa overstays, setting a deadline of the end of the summer for next steps on the issue.
Immigrant rights advocates warned that the memorandum issued by Trump on Monday could lead to action with broad implications for legal immigration.
“Similar to the executive orders from the first days of the Trump administration, this order lays the groundwork for significant policy changes . . . that continue to curb legal immigration and further expand enforcement operations,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal first reported earlier this month that Trump was considering the move.
In its statement announcing the move, the White House said recommendations from the Departments of State and Homeland Security on limiting nonimmigrant visa overstays are due within 120 days.
One step under consideration, according to the White House, is the suspension or restriction of entry for individuals from countries with high overstay rates.
“The rampant problem of visa overstays is undermining the rule of law and straining resources that are needed to address the crisis at our southern border,” the statement reads.
The move is aimed at countries with visa overstay rates of higher than 10 percent — a figure that applies to 20 countries — as well as those participating in the Visa Waiver Program.
Immigration attorney David Leopold said the memorandum “looks like a first step toward a future plan to ban visitors from certain African countries” with high overstay rates.
Several nations in Africa are among those with double-digit overstay rates, according to 2017 Department of Homeland Security figures.
Leopold, a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, called the move “a waste of resources,” noting that U.S. immigration law already imposes bans of up to 10 years on those who overstay tourist or visitor visas for more than six months.
In addition, U.S. consular officers have discretion to deny visas to applicants at a higher risk of overstay, he said.