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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Grandparents from travel ban countries now allowed into US: state department

A memo from US secretary of state Rex Tillerson was sent to all American diplomatic posts overseas on Friday after a US district judge in Hawaii issued a ruling late on Thursday limiting the scope of the administration's temporary ban on refugees and travellers from the six countries

Air passengers walk into Washington Dulles International Airport on July 14, 2017, a day after a federal judge ruled that US president Donald Trump's temporary ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries cannot stop grandparents and other relatives of American citizens from entering the country. James Lawler Duggan / Reuters
Air passengers walk into Washington Dulles International Airport on July 14, 2017, a day after a federal judge ruled that US president Donald Trump's temporary ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries cannot stop grandparents and other relatives of American citizens from entering the country. James Lawler Duggan / Reuters

Grandparents of US citizens from six Muslim-majority countries are now eligible to receive American visas, according to a US state department memo that reflects the latest court ruling on president Donald Trump's travel ban.

The memo from US secretary of state Rex Tillerson was sent to all American diplomatic posts overseas on Friday after a US district judge in Hawaii issued a ruling late on Thursday limiting the scope of the administration's temporary ban on refugees and travellers from the six countries.

US district judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu found the government cannot bar grandparents and other relatives of American citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from getting visas under the ban.

Mr Watson declined to put his ruling on hold pending appeal, meaning it went into effect immediately. The administration has asked the Supreme Court and the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to block the decision.

The Friday memo updated the definition of "close family" members who are exempt from the temporary travel ban laid down in Mr Trump's March 6 executive order.

The cable reversed the state department's previous, narrow definition of close family and stated that "grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and cousins" are eligible for visas.

Consulates and embassies do not need to reopen any visa applications refused under the prior, narrower definition of close family members, the cable said.

Between March 10 and March 17, Mr Tillerson issued four cables, originally giving instructions on implementing the travel ban, then rescinding much of his guidance because of court rulings and because it had been issued without approval from the White House office of management and budget.

In another reversal, the state department had originally interpreted the supreme court's June 26 ruling to exclude fiances, saying they do not count as a close family relationship eligible for an exemption to the travel ban. Just before the 90-day travel ban was to take effect on June 29, however, the state department said fiances would be counted as close family.

Last month, the supreme court partially revived the March 6 ban that had been blocked by lower courts. It said the ban could take effect, but people with a "bona fide relationship" to a US person or entity could not be barred.

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