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Federal Court Expands List of Family Not Subject to Travel Ban

14 Jul

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Hawaii issued an order prohibiting the Trump Administration from enforcing its travel ban against additional family members not previously exempted in the Administration’s June 2017 implementation of the ban.  The court expanded the list of exempted family members to include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the U.S.  The previous list established by the Trump Administration was limited to a parent, parent-in-law, child or adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, or fiancé.

In the same decision, the district court also held that the travel ban cannot be applied to refugees who have been assured of resettlement assistance by a refugee resettlement organization in the United States.  Generally refugees are not admitted until such assistance can be worked out, so the current order effectively exempts all refugees from the travel ban.

Applicants seeking to establish a bona fide relationship with a person in the United States should be prepared to present original birth and/or marriage certificates, as applicable.  Establishing the required relationship to a mother-in-law, for example, would require presentation of a marriage certificate to document the applicant’s relationship with his/her spouse, and the spouse’s birth certificate to establish the spouse’s relationship to his/her parent.  Establishing a relationship with a grandparent might involve presenting the birth certificate of both the applicant and his or her parent who is the child of the grandparent.

For those seeking to establish their bona fide relationship to a school, business, or organization in the United States, officials are likely to require documentation of the official, pre-established relationship, or a relationship that developed subsequently in the normal course of business rather than after the travel ban as a means of evading the travel ban.  Hotel reservations are not sufficient to establish a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity.

Students and J-1 scholars and exchange visitors would be expected to present their valid Form I-20 or DS-2019.  Employees should be able to present their valid petition approvals and offer letters.  Returning workers should also be able to present prior Forms W-2 or earnings statements as well as any previously-issued work visas (e.g., H-1B, L-1).  Guest lecturers should have invitation letters from the university or organization inviting them to present.  In order to establish that the relationship was not entered into for the purpose of evading the ban, the lecturer should be prepared to document that the lecture was scheduled prior to the Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2017, or perhaps that the lecturer has routinely traveled as a guest lecturer in the past.  Other business travelers should be prepared to present documentation of the nature of their relationship with the U.S. person or entity as well as the date and manner the relationship was formed.

The modified travel ban is likely to remain in effect for 90 days from its effective date, during which time new applicants without qualifying relationships will be ineligible for a visa to enter the United States.  Those applicants who have already been issued a visa should be permitted to enter, even if they are unable to document their qualifying connections, but such visitors must still satisfy all other criteria for admission under the category requested when they appear before U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) for inspection.

Applicants who have questions about their eligibility to travel to the United States or who require assistance in preparing for their visa applications should contact their Foster immigration attorney for assistance.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the validity of the travel ban in October 2017, though intervening appeals of the new district court order may land the issue before the Supreme Court earlier than expected.  Foster will continue to monitor the impact and implementation of the revised Executive Order, as well as the continued litigation before the Supreme Court, and will provide updates as they become available via Foster’s website at, and via future Immigration Updates©.