US issues new visa criteria for 6 Muslim nations, asks applicants to prove ‘close’ relationships in America
After the US Supreme Court partially restored President Donald Trump's travel ban, the Trump administration on Wednesday set new criteria for visa applicants from six mainly Muslim nations and all refugees asking them to prove “close” family or business ties with the United States.
Under the new guidelines, sent to US embassies and consulates on Wednesday, applicants from the six countries must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling in the US.
Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancées or other extended family members are not considered to be close relationships under the new guidelines.
The new guidelines came as US embassies and consulates awaited instructions on how to implement this week's Supreme Court order that partially reinstated the ban after it was blocked by lower courts.
The administration had given itself a Thursday deadline for implementing the scaled-back ban, which applies to visitors from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen.
The justices' opinion exempted applicants from the ban if they could prove a "bona fide relationship" with a US person or entity. Government lawyers must determine how to define such a relationship.
The court offered only broad guidelines — suggesting they would include a relative, job offer or invitation to lecture in the US.
Trump's initial travel ban in January led to chaos at airports around the world, but airlines say they don't expect similar problems this time. After a judge blocked the original ban, Trump issued a scaled-down order and the court's action Friday further reduced the number of people who would be covered by it. Also, while the initial order took effect immediately, adding to the confusion, this one was delayed 72 hours after the court's ruling.
The Homeland Security Department had said only that it will implement the travel ban "professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice."
The Supreme Court order also placed similar limitations on Trump's plan to temporarily halt all refugee admissions. But that may have minimal effect for now. Of the 50,000 refugees the government planned to accept in the current budget year, more than 48,900 have been allowed to enter the US.
The State Department has said that the few remaining refugees to be admitted this year will not have to prove a "bona fide relationship."
A new cap won't be in place until the start of the budget year in October, around the time that the Supreme Court considers the case.
Trump ordered the refugee ban and a travel ban affecting the six countries, plus Iraq, shortly after taking office. He said it was needed to protect the USfrom terrorists, but opponents said it was unfairly harsh and was intended to meet a Trump campaign promise to keep Muslims out of the United States.
After a federal judge struck down the bans, Trump signed a revised order intended to overcome legal hurdles. That was also struck down by lower courts, but the Supreme Court's action Monday partially reinstated it.
(With AP inputs)