June 29, 2017 – Residents of Canada applying for a U.S. visa here who are citizens of one of the six countries subject to Donald Trump’s travel ban can be granted entry to America – but only at the discretion of consular officials.
This appears to be the stance the U.S. is taking after details from a leaked State Department cable were published by the Associated Press news agency.
The State Department instructions come after the U.S. Supreme Court partially reinstated Trump’s executive order banning USA immigration for 90 days from six mainly-Muslim countries: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen. The US refugee program is also suspended for 120 days.
The document offers practical detail on how the partial implementation of the Trump travel ban will work, including what constitutes a ‘close’ family or business tie to the U.S.
Citizens of the six banned countries and refugees must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling who is already in the U.S.
Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiancées or other extended family members do not count as close family members.
The leaked cable was distributed to all US embassies and consulates to guide visa application decisions.
The pertinent section for Canadian permanent residents concerned exemptions. It says permanent residents of Canada applying for a visa in Canada can be granted an exemption by a visa officer. However, it offers no guarantees.
Other case in which exemptions can be granted include candidates who have « previously established significant contacts with the United States, » or have « significant business or professional obligations » in the U.S., according to AP. An infant, adopted child or person in need of urgent medical care can also be exempted, as well as those travelling for business with a recognized international organization or the U.S. government. Exemptions are also set aside for journalists, students, workers or lecturers with contracts of employment.
The document includes further guidance on what is deemed a close business tie, saying the relationship must be « formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading » Trump’s executive order. Officials are to be alert to a relationship that may have been struck specifically to circumnavigate the new rules.
The wording of the decision says the ban applies “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” While the lower court injunctions remain in place, their scope has been significantly reduced.
Supreme Court justices took issue with how broad the injunctions were, covering foreigners with no prior connection to America. “Denying entry to such a foreign national does not burden any American party by reason of that party’s relationship with the foreign national,” the court said.
The ban effectively means the full U.S. refugee program is now suspended for 120 days, given asylum seekers are less likely to have an existing connection in the U.S.
By appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court soon after becoming president, Trump weighted the bench 5-4 in favour of Republicans. Three of those justices, including Gorsuch, said they favoured granting the travel ban in full.
The Facts of the Executive Order
The executive order, signed on March 6, bans travellers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. It also suspends the entire U.S. refugee for 120 days. It was due to go into effect on March 16, but was blocked by federal judges in both Hawaii and Maryland.
This was Trump’s second attempt an executive order after the original one was also suspended by the U.S. courts. The main difference between the two orders was the original inclusion of Iraq as one of the targeted countries.
The original order sparked chaos due to a lack of guidance on its implementation.
Border officials were seemingly unaware who was covered by the ban, including green card holders and dual citizens.
There followed several days of travellers not being allowed on flights, or being held at U.S. airports. Some of those covered by the ban were already in the air when it was signed.
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