USA : new visa criteria set to come into effect

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The Trump administration issued guidelines to U.S. embassies and consulates on how to enforce new restrictions on travel to the U.S. by refugees and migrants from six countries planned to go into effect as of 8 p.m. eastern time Thursday, according to a person familiar with the policy.

A diplomatic cable outlining the guidelines defines close family that would be allowed U.S. entry as a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in- law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half and including step relationships, according to the person who confirmed details of the cable.

The rollout of the measures, which follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday allowing parts of an executive order to proceed, is being led by the State Department.

The timing is aimed at giving embassies and consulates sufficient direction on how to implement the protocol before it comes into effect, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the move hasn’t been formally announced.

The policy is an attempt to flesh out a June 26 Supreme Court decision reviving President Donald Trump’s 90-day travel ban on people entering the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Existing visas will be respected, but new applicants from the countries must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, sibling or close in-law already in the U.S., the person said.

The same requirement, with some exceptions, holds for would-be refugees from all nations who are still awaiting approval for admission to the US.

Travelers with business or professional ties from the countries must also show a relationship that is “formal, documented,” and not based on an intent to evade the ban, the person said.

Some exemptions, including for students and journalists, are included in the policy, according to the person.

Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law, fiancées/fiancés or other extended family members are not considered to be close relationships, according to the guidelines that were issued in a cable sent to all US embassies and consulates late on Wednesday.

On Monday, the supreme court partially lifted lower court injunctions against Trump’s executive order that had temporarily banned visas for citizens of the six countries.

The justices’ ruling exempted applicants from the ban if they could prove a “bona fide relationship” with a US person or entity, but the court offered only broad guidelines – suggesting they would include a relative, job offer or invitation to lecture in the US – as to how that should be defined.

Senior officials from the departments of state, justice and homeland security had worked since the decision to clarify the ruling and Wednesday’s instructions were the result.

As far as business or professional links are concerned, the state department said a legitimate relationship must be “formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading” the ban.

Journalists, students, workers or lecturers who have valid invitations or employment contracts in the US would be exempt from the ban.

The exemption does not apply to those who seek a relationship with an American business or educational institution purely for the purpose of avoiding the rules, the cable said.

A hotel reservation or car rental contract, even if it were pre-paid, would also not count, it said.

While the initial order took effect immediately, adding to the confusion, this one was delayed 72 hours after the court’s ruling.

Would-be immigrants from the six counties who won a coveted visa in the government’s diversity lottery – a program that randomly awards 50,000 green cards annually to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US – will have to prove they have a “bona fide relationship” within the US or are eligible for another waiver or face being banned for at least 90 days. That hurdle may be a difficult one for those immigrants to overcome, as many visa lottery winners do not have relatives in the US, or jobs in advance of arriving in the country.

Generally, winners only need prove they were born in an eligible county and have completed high school or have at least two years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least two other years of training or experience.

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