US President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order, temporarily halting entry to the US for people from six Muslim-majority nations who are seeking new visas while dropping Iraq from the list, after worldwide outrage over the controversial immigration policy.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed President Trump signed the order behind closed doors "this morning".
The latest executive order specifies that a 90-day ban on people from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen does not apply to those who already have valid visas.
Any individual who had a valid visa either on January 27, 2017 (prior to 5:00 PM) or holds a valid visa on the effective date of the Executive Order is not barred from entry into the US, according to the order.
"The 90-day period will allow for proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals," it says.
The new order drops Iraqs name from the list of targeted countries, saying Baghdad has agreed to increase cooperation with the US on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to America.
"Iraqi citizens are not affected by the Executive Order," says the order which will come into force on March 16.
The Refugee Admissions Program will also be temporarily suspended for the next 120 days while Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and interagency partners review screening procedures to ensure refugees admitted in the future do not pose a security risk to the US, the new order says.
FBI is currently investigating 300 individuals admitted to the US as refugees for potential terrorism related activities.
Officials hope that this time it will be a very orderly process and there would be no chaos at port of entry. Those people who are travelling on valid visas and arrive at a US port of entry will still be permitted to seek entry into the United States.
President Trump has also directed the State Department and the DHS to make recommendation of any country that could be included in the future suspension of entry into the US.
The renewed ban on immigrants is "a vital measure for strengthening our national security," said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
"To our allies and partners around the world, please understand this order is part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamist terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends," he said.
The State Department will coordinate with other federal agencies and implement these temporary restrictions in an orderly manner, Tillerson said.
"Iraq is an important ally in the fight to defeat ISIS, with their brave soldiers fighting in close coordination with Americas men and women in uniform.
"This intense review over the past month identified multiple security measures that the State Department and the government of Iraq will be implementing to achieve our shared objective of preventing those with criminal or terroristic intent from reaching the US," Tillerson said.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, "We also know that people seeking to support or commit terrorist attacks here will try to enter through our refugee program. In fact, today more than 300 people who came here as refugees are under FBI investigation for potential terrorism- related activities".
This executive order protects the American people ? as well as lawful permanent residents ? by putting in place an enhanced screening and vetting process for visitors from six nations, Sessions said, pointing out that like every nation, the US has the right to control who enters the country.
"Three of these nations are state sponsors of terrorism. The other three have served as safe havens for terrorists ? countries where the government has lost control of territory to terrorist groups like ISIL or Al Qaeda and its affiliates. This increases the risk that people admitted here from these countries may belong to terrorist groups, or may have been radicalised by them," he said.
"We cannot compromise our nations security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly ? or when those governments actively support terrorism. This executive order provides a needed pause, so we can carefully review how we scrutinise people coming here from these countries of concern," he added.
The Department of Justice believes that this executive order, just as the first, is a lawful and proper exercise of presidential authority.
The Department of Justice will defend and enforce lawful orders of the President consistent with core principles of the Constitution. The executive is empowered under the Constitution and by Congress to make national security judgements and to enforce the immigration policies in order to safeguard the American public, he added.