Your closest family members from banned countries are now barred from the US

Family unfriendly.
Family unfriendly.
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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Remember back in the summer when we were discussing what constituted “family” in the confusing times after president Donald Trump’s second travel ban?

Those look like simpler times now.

First, a quick recap

On June 26, the US Supreme Court upheld injunctions that had carved out exemptions to the president’s second travel ban for people who could establish a bona-fide relationship (pdf, p. 9) with an American, such as a “close familial relationship.”

But the court didn’t define “close familial relationships.” The State Department, however, did. Soon people were lamenting that a class of relative, who—along with would-be terrorists—appeared to be banned from the US: the Iranian grandmother.

The latest court action

A July injunction from a court in Hawaii then clarified that close relatives did, in fact, include all sorts of other relatives beyond immediate family, listing grandparents, cousins, sisters- and brothers-in-law, among others. The State Department soon issued a memo in line with that injunction’s definition.

The second travel ban and its related injunctions were superseded by a third travel ban in September. New injunctions in October limited that presidential proclamation too. Yesterday (Dec. 4), with the Supreme Court order lifting the stays on the September order, relatives from the countries with the strictest entry restrictions now are equal, as in equally unwelcome.

What happens now

For Iran, for example, all visitor entry is forbidden. Visitors hoping to enter the US and not already holding a valid visa or traveling on a passport from a second country are not exempted even if they are close family members. What they can do is seek a waiver on one of the grounds listed under Section 3 of the Sept. 24 proclamation—and perhaps here is where closer relatives have a slight edge.

If the applicant can prove he or she is not a security risk, one of the grounds for a waiver is when “the foreign national seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry would cause the foreign national undue hardship.”

Things could change soon enough, though. Hearings before two different Circuit Courts of Appeals on the legality of the ban will take place on Wednesday and Friday.