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US State Department: Fewer than 60,000 visas revoked under Trump travel order

Fewer than 60,000 people had their visas provisionally cancelled after an executive order blocked their travel to the US, the State Department has said.

That figure contradicts a Justice Department lawyer's claim on Friday during a hearing in Virginia about the ban.

The lawyer in that case said that about 100,000 visas were revoked.

The State Department clarified that the higher figure includes diplomatic and other visas that were actually exempted by the travel ban, as well as expired visas.

President Donald Trump's order bans travel for people from the majority-Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.

The hearing was focused on Virginia's efforts to join a legal challenge from legal permanent residents.

Erez Reuveni, a lawyer with the Justice Department's Office of Immigration Litigation, urged US District Judge Leonie Brinkema to keep the suit focused only on lawful permanent residents, who were the subject of the initial action.

Virginia sought to intervene in the case and expand it to include other people travelling to the US on visas.

Ms Brinkema asked Mr Reuveni how many people were affected by the executive order. He said the number of cases involving lawful permanent residents is very small.

But including all visas covered by the order, he said, "over 100,000 visas have been revoked".

Will Cocks, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, clarified the figure after the court hearing.

"Fewer than 60,000 individuals' visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the executive order," he said. "We recognise that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the executive order.

"To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas."

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, said after the hearing that "there is no legal justification to cancel all these visas".

Ms Brinkema decided to let Virginia join the case, transforming a suit that had been focused on a narrow sliver of those affected into a battle that could affect the rights of tens of thousands of would-be immigrants and visitors.

AP

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