U.S. lays out criteria for visa
applicants from six Muslim nations
Send a link to a friend
[June 29, 2017]
By Arshad Mohammed and Yeganeh Torbati
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Visa applicants from
six Muslim-majority countries must have a close U.S. family relationship
or formal ties to a U.S. entity to be admitted to the United States
under guidance distributed by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday.
The guidance defined a close familial relationship as being a parent,
spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or
sibling, including step siblings and other step family relations,
according to a copy of a cable distributed to all U.S. diplomatic posts
and seen by Reuters.
The cable, first reported by the Associated Press, said close family
"does not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces,
nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancés, and any
other 'extended' family members."
It also specified that any relationship with a U.S. entity "must be
formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for
the purpose of evading the E.O.," a reference to U.S. President Donald
Trump's March 6 executive order barring most U.S. travel by citizens of
the six nations for 90 days.
The cable provides advice to U.S. consular officers on how to interpret
Monday's Supreme Court ruling that allowed parts of the executive order,
which had been blocked by the courts, to be implemented while the
highest U.S. court considers the matter.
The six nations whose citizens are covered by the executive order are
Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Asked about the guidance issued on Wednesday night, the State Department
declined to comment on internal communications.
The cable's language closely mirrored the Supreme Court's order on the
travel ban, though it appeared to interpret it in a narrow manner,
notably in its definition of close family.
It was unclear on Wednesday evening whether the State Department's
interpretation of the court's order would spark further legal action by
opponents of the ban.
The guidance gave several examples of what might constitute a bona fide
relationship with a U.S. entity, and said broad categories would be
exempt from the travel ban, such as those eligible for student visas,
"as their bona fide relationship to a person or entity is inherent in
the visa classification."
[to top of second column]
An international passenger arrives at Washington Dulles
International Airport after the U.S. Supreme Court granted parts of
the Trump administration's emergency request to put its travel ban
into effect later in the week pending further judicial review, in
Dulles, Virginia, U.S.,on June 26, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler
Similarly, those eligible for family or employment based immigrant
visa applications are exempt from the travel ban, the cable said.
The cable said "a worker who accepted an offer of employment from a
company in the United States or a lecturer invited to address an
audience in the United States would be exempt" from the travel ban,
but someone who simply made a hotel reservation would not count as
someone with a bona fide relationship.
Trump's executive order also imposed a 120-day ban on entry to the
United States by refugees. Monday's Supreme Court order, however,
said the ban did not cover those refugees "who can credibly claim a
bona fide relationship with a person or entity" in the United
The State Department guidance was unclear on what U.S. refugee
agencies regard as a key question: whether their own dealings with
refugees applying to come to the United States constituted a bona
The cable said that consulates should continue to interview
applicants for so-called diversity visas, which are granted to
individuals from countries that typically do not send many
immigrants to the United States. In 2015, around 10,500 citizens
from the six banned countries were selected for the diversity visa
lottery, according to State Department figures.
The travel ban will likely bar such visas for citizens of the six
countries, the cable acknowledged, stating that "we anticipate that
very few DV applicants are likely to be exempt from the E.O.’s
suspension of entry or to qualify for a waiver."
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.