The State Department is putting new criteria in place for visa applicants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen and all refugees, requiring a close family or business tie to the United States.
The announcement comes after the Supreme Court partially restored President Donald Trump’s Executive Order that had temporarily banned visas for citizens of the six mostly Muslim countries. The Supreme Court ruling provided an exception to the ban to those who could prove a “bona fide relationship” with a U.S. person or entity, but the court did not offer a precise explanation of what a “a bona fide relationship” meant.
The new guidelines that will go into effect at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, June 29, 2017 and provide that Citizens from the above countries must prove a close family relationship with a parent, spouse, fiancé, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the United States to be eligible. Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law or other extended family members are not considered to be close family.
A bona fide relationship with a U.S. business or other entity, such as a university, “must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading the Executive Order.”
Consular officers may grant other exemptions to applicants from the six countries if they have “previously established significant contacts with the United States; significant business or professional obligations in the US; if they are an infant, adopted child or in need of urgent medical care; if they are traveling for business with a recognized international organization or the U.S. government or if they are a legal resident of Canada who applies for a visa in Canada.”
The new rules will also affect citizens from the six countries who attempt to win visas 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 U.S. Generally winners in the diversity lottery only need to prove that they were born in an eligible country 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. Now they will also have to prove that they have a bone fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S or are eligible for another waiver otherwise they face being banned for 90 days. This may prove difficult as many lottery winners do not have relatives in the U.S. or have secured jobs in advance of arriving in the U.S.
Visas that have already been approved will not be invalidated. The new guidelines will remain in place until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling on the matter in October, 2017.