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Trump's travel ban: Who's affected by it and what's happened so far

After months of court challenges, Trump's ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries is now in effect – but only in part, and with lots of questions looming over it. Here's what we know

People arrive at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The basics

  • A scaled-down version of U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban came into effect July 29 at 8 p.m. (ET), after a Supreme Court ruling gave the administration a limited victory on the issue.
  • The State Department issued instructions in a cable to consular officials that clarified how the government is interpreting the “bona fide relationship” standard set out by the court.
  • Family: The State Department’s guidelines say that, to be exempt from the ban, applicants must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, sibling, adult son or daughter, son- or daughter-in-law, fiancé or fiancée already in the United States. (Grandparents were not initially exempt from the ban, but they were later given permission to come in as usual.)
  • Business and professional visitors: The State Department said a legitimate business relationship must be “formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading” the ban.
  • Refugees: The same requirements hold for would-be refugees from all nations that are still awaiting approval for admission to the U.S.
  • Canadians: The federal government has assured that Canadian citizens and permanent residents should still be able to travel as usual, but anyone travelling to the U.S. should double-check their documentation and eligibility ahead of time. (Here are the government of Canada’s guidelines for U.S. travel, and the phone numbers and contact forms for emergency consular assistance.)

Who's affected, and for how long

Which countries? U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily bars visitors from six majority-Muslim countries – Syria, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Libya and Somalia – from getting U.S. visas, subject to certain exceptions (more on that below). It also suspends U.S. refugee admissions.

For how long? The travel restrictions are in effect for 90 days, and the refugee ban for 120 days. (Since the order began July 29, those periods would end on Sept. 27 and Oct. 27, respectively.)

What if I already have a visa? Visas that have already been approved will not be revoked, according to the State Department.

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Who's 'bona fide'? The Supreme Court's decision protects foreigners from the ban if they have a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship" with someone or some entity in the country. The Supreme Court ruling listed some examples of visitors or refugee applicants who might be considered to have a "bona fide relationship," such as close relatives of U.S. residents, students enrolled at U.S. schools or workers accepting jobs at U.S. companies. For its purposes, the State Department is defining visitors with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the United States as family relationships that meet the standard.

Who's not 'bona fide'? According to the court ruling, distant relatives or people creating business and professional relationships to deliberately avoid the ban wouldn't qualify. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiancees or other extended family members are not considered to be close relationships, according to the State Department's guidelines.

Who decides who's 'bona fide'? The ruling leaves a lot of interpretation for customs and immigration officials about whose relationships are bona fide, what constitutes a legitimate "entity" in the U.S. and who ultimately makes those calls. Three of the Supreme Court justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Mr. Trump's nominee to the court, Neil Gorsuch – warned that the "bona fide" standard was "unworkable" and would "invite a flood of litigation until this case is resolved on the merits." For now, the State Department's guidelines lets consular officers grant other exemptions to applicants from the six nations if they have "previously established significant contacts with the United States;" "significant business or professional obligations" in the U.S.; if they are an infant, adopted child or in need of urgent medical care; if they are travelling for business with a recognized international organization or the U.S. government; or if they are a legal resident of Canada who applies for a visa in Canada.

Jan. 28, 2017: People gather at Chicago’s O’Hare airport to protest against the original Trump travel ban.

How we got here

During the 2016 election, Mr. Trump promised what he characterized as a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on" and rethink their approach to terrorism prevention. Once in office, he backed away somewhat from the idea of a total Muslim ban, but he tried twice to institute executive orders temporarily blocking immigration from a list of mostly Muslim countries (at first seven, including Iraq, then only six).

Both orders, one in January and the other in March, were challenged by district and appeal courts. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling in May said the second order "in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination."

The Trump administration brought the issue to the Supreme Court, which decided on June 26 that it would hear their appeal. The court granted an emergency request from the administration to let the ban go ahead for now, subject to the "bona fide relationship" restrictions.

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Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

What it means for Canada

Who can travel: After the June 26 ruling, Bernie Derible, a spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said the restrictions would not affect Canadian dual nationals travelling on their Canadian passports or Canadian permanent residents who have valid resident cards and valid U.S. visas, and are deemed eligible by U.S. border authorities to enter the United States. The government is advising all people planning travel to the U.S. to verify admission requirements ahead of time.

What happened last time: Mr. Trump's first ban back in January sowed confusion among Canadians who were caught by surprise by the restrictions, which Homeland Security and State Department officials initially said would affect Canadians too. Ottawa then got assurances from the Trump administration that Canadians would not be affected, which were repeated when Mr. Trump issued his March 6 order.

Crossings to Canada: The bans and other Trump immigration policies have led to an exodus of asylum seekers crossing the U.S. border into Canada. Once here, many of those thousands of people have become trapped in legal limbo, struggling to find work or permanent housing as they face fast-growing waiting lists to have their refugee claims heard.

Safe Third Country Agreement: The Trump administration's immigration overhaul has renewed pressure on Ottawa to suspend or review a 2004 Canada-U.S. agreement requiring refugees to make asylum claims in the first safe country they arrive in. The deal means refugees who land in the United States cannot then make a claim in Canada, but they'll only be turned away at regular border crossings and airports; refugees who walk across the border elsewhere can make claims once they're here. Aadil Mangalji, a partner at Toronto's Long Mangalji law firm, told The Globe that if the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rules in favour of Mr. Trump's executive order, the Safe Third Country Agreement could face challenges in Canadian courts, because refugees could argue that the United States is no longer safe for them.

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A flag flies outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

What to watch for next

Lawsuits: Differing interpretations of the "bona fide" standard could leave room for more lawsuits if advocates for immigrants believe the administration is going beyond the Supreme Court's guidelines. "In theory, you could say if somebody is coming for tourism and has made a reservation for a hotel, there's now a U.S. interest in bringing them to the United States. The hotel is a U.S. entity," Jeffrey Gorsky, a former legal adviser to the State Department's Visa Office, told Reuters. The difficult job of judging foreigners' claimed connections could land back in the lower courts in Maryland and Hawaii that had originally blocked Mr. Trump's travel ban, Stephen Vladeck, a professor at University of Texas School of Law, told Reuters. "We could have dozens of these cases between now and September."

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The Supreme Court's last word: The earliest the top court can hear arguments on the legality of the ban is Oct. 2, when their next session begins. But by then, a key provision may have expired, possibly making the review unnecessary. That's because Mr. Trump's order only sought to halt travellers from the six countries for 90 days, to give the administration time to review the screening procedures for those visa applicants.

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With reports from Associated Press, Reuters, The Canadian Press and Adrian Morrow


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