The State Department has released additional guidelines in relation to the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision to allow certain parts of the president’s revised travel ban. Public access to this guidance is available here.
The ban on issuing visas to applicants from certain countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) will come into effect on June 29, 2017. However, the ban will not apply to visa applicants who have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Further, any person with a valid, unexpired visa cannot be banned from entry unless he or she is deemed inadmissible on other grounds.
Today’s guidelines provided additional details about what constitutes a “bona fide relationship.” For family members, the visa applicant must be a parent, parent-in-law, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling (whether whole or half), and step relationships. The relationship does not apply to grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brother- or sister-in-laws, fiancés or “any other ‘extended’ family members.”
For visa applicants coming to the United States for business reasons, the U.S. entity (employer, client, organization, etc.) “must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading the executive order” and the relationship must be documented. Relationships to a U.S. entity include a job offer, an invitation to lecture for an event or college, going to a U.S. school, and other related reasons. The new guidelines specifically prohibit nonprofit organizations from seeking out citizens of the affected countries and counting them as clients to avoid the ban. Hotel reservations are also specifically prohibited as evidence of a bona fide relationship.
According to the Supreme Court decision, applicants that do not have ties to the United States can have their visas denied if they are from one of the six countries. Please note that the above comments do not apply to work-related visa types (such as H/L/O/E/J etc.), nor do they relate to employment-based green card applications or family-based green card applications.
Per Department of Homeland Security guidelines: “an individual who wishes to apply for a nonimmigrant visa should apply for a visa and disclose during the visa interview any information that might demonstrate he or she is exempt from section 2(c) of the Executive Order.”
While the guidelines apply specifically to the six countries mentioned in the travel ban, we anticipate that this may begin a trend of consular officers asking for additional documentation of any applicant’s relationship to a person/entity in the United States. We recommend that clients prepare for longer visa wait times as officers begin asking more questions about the applicant’s trip to the United States.
** This newsletter/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis **