Embassy guidance on visa applicants from 6 Muslim-majority nations

A Saudi family embraces each other as members arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport after the US Supreme Court granted parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put its travel ban into effect.
A Saudi family embraces each other as members arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport after the US Supreme Court granted parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put its travel ban into effect. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries must have a close US family relationship or formal ties to a US entity to be admitted to the United States under a guidance distributed by the US State Department.

It defined a close familial relationship as that of a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling, including step-siblings and other step-family relations, based on a copy of a cable distributed to all US diplomatic posts.

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, fiances, and any other 'extended' family members".

It also specified that any relationship with a US entity "must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading the E.O.", a reference to US President Donald Trump's March 6 executive order barring most US travel by citizens of the six nations for 90 days.

The cable provides advice to US 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 US 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, 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 seemed to interpret it narrowly, notably in its definition of close family.

The guidance gave several examples of what might constitute a bona fide relationship with a US entity, such as a student visa. But someone with a hotel reservation would not be counted.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2017, with the headline 'Embassy guidance on visa applicants from 6 Muslim-majority nations'. Print Edition | Subscribe