Australians planning on visiting the US could be forced to undertake an in-person interview with American officials under strict new border rules US President Donald Trump is considering.
The Los Angeles Times, citing a draft copy of an executive order on immigration and refugees Mr Trump is mulling, reported the visa waiver program that allows Australians and citizens from 37 other countries a 90-day tourist visa to easily enter the US by simply submitting biographical information online, could be suspended.
Visitors, instead, would have to sit for an in-person interview before entering the US.
“The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act), which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa, undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions,” the draft executive order states.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s hopes of America taking refugees held on Nauru and Manus Island could also be doomed if Mr Trump goes ahead with new regulations as part of his “extreme vetting” and “Keeping America Safe” plan.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday Mr Trump will announce later this week details on the “Keeping America Safe” plan.
Mr Trump is also considering blocking all refugees from entering the US for 120 days and restricting visas for people from terror hot spot nations Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
The draft order temporarily suspends the US refugee program while new vetting procedures are put in place and stops refugees from Syria being admitted indefinitely until a security screening review is completed.
Many of the asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island are from Syria and the other targeted terror hot spot countries.
“I think the guiding principle for the president is keeping this country safe,” Mr Spicer said.
Mr Spicer added the US needs to make sure “people who are from a country that has a propensity to do us harm” face “appropriate steps to make sure they are coming to this country for all of the right reasons”.
The US-Australia deal involving refugees held on Nauru and Manus Island was struck last year when Barack Obama was US president.
With Mr Obama exiting the White House and Mr Trump, who vowed to crackdown on refugees while campaigning to be president, in power the secretly negotiated deal could be doomed.
Powerful members of the Republican-controlled Congress were outraged when it was revealed Mr Turnbull and Mr Obama had struck the agreements without their input. If Mr Trump torpedoes the refugee deal it will be the second major blow he has delivered to the Australian prime minister this week.
Mr Trump signed an executive order on Monday withdrawing America’s involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement with Australia and 10 other Pacific countries. The Australian government, however, is holding out hope the strong relationship Australia has with the US will keep the refugee deal alive.
“We look forward to working with President Trump, his administration, and in particular Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly, on this issue and many others of shared interest in the years ahead,” Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told AAP on Wednesday.
“We will continue to work with our friends in the United States on the arrangement but will not provide a running commentary through the media.”