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Travel ban goes into effect tonight, close relations excepted

The U.S. Supreme Court made a surprise ruling on President Trump's travel ban against nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The revised executive order had been put on ice by two lower courts. The Fourth and Ninth Circuit courts of appeal had issued injunctions keeping the ban from going into effect while its ultimate legality is being sorted out.

The executive order contains a number of provisions, including:

  • For 90 days, banning nationals of the affected countries from entering the U.S., unless they are green card holders
  • For 120 days, banning all refugees from coming to the U.S.
  • For 120 days, suspending refugee status determinations
  • Capping the number of refugees coming to the U.S. this year 2017 to 50,000
  • Ordering the Homeland Security Department to find out whether foreign governments provide sufficient information on nationals who apply for U.S. visas

On Monday, the high court reversed that position, ruling that the injunctions were too broad. Instead of keeping the entire ban from going into effect, it said, the lower courts should have allowed as much of the ban into effect as would likely pass constitutional muster.

What that means practically is that the entire ban will go into effect, but only "against foreign nationals abroad who have no connection to the United States at all," as the court wrote. On the other hand, "foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States" are not subject to the executive order.

What constitutes a bona fide relationship with a US person or entity?

Without clear guidance from the high court, the State Department has had to come up with definitions and workable guidelines in a hurry. To define a bona fide relationship with a person in the U.S., they apparently relied on the priorities in the Immigration and Naturalization Act. Therefore, the following relationships are considered sufficient to block the ban's effect:

  • Spouses
  • Parents, parents-in-law and stepparents
  • Minor and adult children, stepchildren, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law
  • Whole or half-siblings

Fiancés and fiancées, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and other extended family members will not be considered bona fide relationships for this purpose.

As for entities, the State Department seems to be saying people have bona fide relationships with entities if they would qualify for a visa based on that relationship, as long as it is " formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading" the executive order. For example, those with student visas or employment visas are considered to have a bona fide relationship. It is unclear whether a relationship with a U.S. refugee agency is sufficient.

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