The letter from Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith to the US government institutions asked for exceptions both for foreign employees and students working at Microsoft.
Smith suggested that those who have to leave the US because of family emergencies and business trips should be allowed to enter the country again without additional vetting.
“These are not people trying to avoid detection,” Smith said in the letter which is addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. “Rather, these individuals are ‘known quantities’ in their communities: their character, personalities, conduct, and behavior is well recognized and understood by their employers, colleagues, friends, and neighbors.”
In his letter, Smith has highlighted cases of Microsoft employees caught up in the surprise order signed by Donald Trump. The decision has led to separation of couples and one Microsoft worker is facing the hard choice of visiting a dying parent overseas and perhaps not being allowed to return.
Microsoft is asking for the following exceptions process for who they call “Responsible Known Travelers with Pressing Needs”:
“The applicant initially must fall into one of three categories: (a) an individual who already holds a valid nonimmigrant work visa sponsored by a U.S. employer enrolled in the E-Verify program, which helps ensure responsible visa use; (b) an individual who already holds an F-1 student visa to pursue a degree at an accredited U.S. university and can provide documentation from the university showing that he or she is currently enrolled and in good standing; or (c) be an immediate family member of one of these individuals and hold a derivative nonimmigrant visa;
• The individual must have committed no crime in the United States;
• If applying to depart from the U.S. and subsequently re-enter, the purpose of the travel must be for an exigent family-related emergency or for the business need of an employer. The travel abroad would be for a duration of no longer than two weeks; and
• Business travel abroad would not include passage through the countries covered by the executive order. Personal travel abroad for exigent family-related emergencies may allow for travel to any country on a case-by-case basis.”
The Executive Order on Immigration signed by the U.S. President applies an immediate 90-day moratorium on admissions and reentry into the United States of all individuals who are not already a citizen of the U.S. from the seven following countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.
In first reactions after the order was signed Microsoft reassured its employees, offering legal advice and assistance to those affected.
“We believe that immigration laws can and should protect the public without sacrificing people’s freedom of expression or religion,” Smith wrote in a memo shared by Satya Nadella, saying that Microsoft believed “in the importance of protecting legitimate and law-abiding refugees whose very lives may be at stake in immigration proceedings.”
In addition to those statements, Microsoft is participating in a joint lawsuit against the executive order, alongside Amazon and Expedia. The lawsuit claims some of the company’s employees have been adversely affected by the change in the policy.
In another statement, the Microsoft leadership left no doubt about its opposition to the travel-ban, saying that they believed “the executive order [was] misguided and a fundamental step backwards,” and that there existed “more effective ways to protect public safety without creating so much collateral damage to the country’s reputation and values.”