Travel Ban Update: State Department Expands Definition of “Close Family”

Responding to a federal district court order judicially expanding those excluded from the Administration’s Travel Ban, the United States Department of State issued guidance on Monday expanding the definition of “family” under the Executive Order banning certain visa applicants and refugees from six countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

In June, the United States Supreme Court allowed the implementation of the Travel Ban to proceed with a certain limitation: that visa applicants with a bona fide relationship with a United States person or entity are exempt from the ban.  The Administration deemed that a bona fide relationship with a person included only spouses, parents, children, and siblings.  Fiancés were later added to the list.

Last week, a federal district court in Hawaii held that a bona fide relationship with a person also includes grandparents and other close relatives.  In response, the State Department instructed embassies and consulates to consider grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and first cousins when determining whether a visa applicant has a bona fide relationship with a United States Citizen.

Again, embassies and consulates may consider these relationships; this does not mean that a visa applicant with such a relationship will not be excluded from the United States.  It is crucial that all visa applicants, and their sponsors, employers, and educators be proactive, informed, and represented by counsel in all visa applications and foreign travel matters, to prevent any travel-related problems.

If you have questions about this post, your rights, or any other immigration law issues, please contact me at

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