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The snarl over what 'bona fide relationship' means

President Trump's temporary travel ban is partially in force now. The confusion and outrage that were hallmarks of the first attempt earlier this year seem to be less of an issue this time, but there is still a good deal of uncertainty about what's going on and who is doing what to whom.

Immigrants seeking to get themselves and their loved ones into the country face challenges in the best of times. Skilled attorneys can be crucial in effectively navigating immigration laws. Such counsel would seem to be more important now than ever, considering current conditions. Fortunately, volunteer attorneys and translators have taken up positions at many U.S. airports to offer support.

What we know

Readers likely know that the ban temporarily bars some travelers from six specific countries from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days. Those countries are Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Iran. Refugees in general are blocked for the next 120 days. The ban took effect Thursday night. Anyone with a valid visa at the time the ban began is supposed to be OK.

Officials say to obtain a visa, individuals will have to show they have a "bona fide relationship" with someone or something in this country. Of course, any rule is subject to interpretation and in this instance, the administration seems to be using a very narrow gauge for what a bona fide relationship means. Official guidelines offer a limited roster of players.

To qualify for a visa, the applicant must have a close family relative living as a U.S. resident. Close is defined as a parent, sibling, spouse or child. "Step" versions of those relationships qualify. Adult children, sons- or daughters-in-law qualify, too.

Grandparents don't get a pass, however. Nor do grandchildren, uncles, aunts or cousins.

Fiancé(e)s failed to make the cut at first, but just before the ban took effect, the State Department changed its mind.

Business travel will be allowed, but a visa will be denied if it's determined an applicant is seeking it to get around the ban.

Officials do have some discretion to waive the rules if they believe a visa is medically necessary or serves U.S. interests. But how much it is used remains to be seen.

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