Following a district judge’s ruling that grandparents (and other close family members) with relatives who are U.S. citizens were exempt from President Trump’s travel ban, the State Department has officially reissued its guidelines to reflect the ruling.
Reuters obtained a copy of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s memo to foreign embassies in the six majority-Muslim countries affected by the ban. Tillerson’s cable updated the instructions for issuing visas to include “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and cousins” of American citizens.
The directive also stated that “for all relationships, half or step status is included” in the definition of close familial relationships. Meaning, step-siblings are exempt from the ban. Cousins can also obtain visas, but Tillerson’s memo said that only first-cousins could obtain visas during the temporary travel ban.
Unfortunately, the cable also directed embassies not to reopen visa applications they had rejected under the Executive Order’s original guidelines.
Here’s the text of that clause:
“Because the court’s order is prospective, posts need not reopen or readjudicate visa applications refused under Executive Order 13780 in accordance with the prior guidance regarding close family members.”
However, applicants whose visas were rejected can contact their respective embassies to prove they have a close family member under the State Department’s new definition.
Per Tillerson’s memo:
Posts should therefore reconsider and readjudicate a visa application refused solely based on the E.O. in which the applicant contacts the consular section claiming to have a close family member that exempts them from the E.O. on the basis of the new guidance.
The updated guidance will likely disappoint Attorney General Jeff Sessions. After a Hawaiian federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s definition of close relationship, Sessions said he would take the decision back to the Supreme Court. Sessions also accused Judge Derrick Watson of trying to “micromanage decisions of the co-equal Executive Branch” and promised to “vindicate the rule of law” in a statement released Friday.
An unnamed official told Reuters that the State Department “regularly” updates its vetting guidelines (okay). “We regularly provide updated operational instructions to our embassies and consulates around the world to ensure that our consular officers are using the most up-to-date vetting procedures as they adjudicate visas,” the official said. “We are processing visa applications for nationals of the six affected countries as directed by the Executive Order and to the extent permitted by court decisions.”