The Supreme Court has allowed parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to take effect.
- The justices implemented an exemption for travelers with a “bona fide relationship” to people or entities in the US.
- It is unclear how the court interprets a “bona fide relationship,” but lawyers say travelers will have difficulty proving one.
The Supreme Court on Monday allowed parts of President Donald Trump’s contentious executive order barring citizens of six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for a 90-day period to take effect.
But the decision included an exemption allowing those citizens to enter if they have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” This has prompted some confusion, as the justices provided only a few examples of what constitutes a “bona fide relationship” and how a credible claim might be verified.
Trump was quick to declare the Supreme Court’s decision a victory for his administration — but others have said the decision exempts a potentially wide swath of travelers from being denied entry, depending on how federal officials and courts interpret it.
So what is a “bona fide relationship,” how can one be proved or disproved, and who decides?
Here’s what we know:
Who can credibly claim a ‘bona fide relationship’?
The Supreme Court in its per curiam ruling said a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the US included family members seeking to visit or live with their US relatives, students admitted to American universities, workers hired by American companies, or lecturers invited to speak to American audiences.
The justices noted that two of the plaintiffs in the travel-ban suit sought entry for a spouse and a mother-in-law, both of whom reside in one of the countries included in the ban. The justices said each of those family members “clearly” had a “close familial relationship” and would be permitted to enter.
But the justices didn’t delineate how close the familial relationship must be. Would a cousin qualify? A niece or nephew? And as far as nonfamilial exemptions go, there appears to be some room for interpretation on what counts as an “entity” and to what extent a foreign national must be related to it.
Reaz Jafri, a partner and the head of the global immigration practice at the Withers Bergman law firm, told Business Insider that it was unclear what constitutes “close familial ties” and that having too close a relation to a US citizen or resident may work against travelers. Federal officials are often suspicious of foreigners who say they are visiting a close relative, believing them to be attempting to unlawfully immigrate to the US under the guise of visiting temporarily.
“This whole close family ties — it’s a very dangerous thing to talk about or to use as a basis to get a visa,” Jafri said. “My sense is that it just creates massive confusion as to who’s going to get in. Only employees, students, people who have had green-card cases processed overseas are going to be let in. Everyone else, in my opinion, are going to be out of luck.”