U.S. travel ban 'grey areas' could cause problems for Canadian permanent residents

Canadian permanent residents who hail from one of the six countries included in the U.S. travel ban but are students, have work permits or who have familial ties should have no issue getting in to the U.S. But there's may be some grey area that could cause problems.

90-day travel ban expected to come into effect Thursday morning

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a limited version of U.S. President Donald Trump's ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

When the U.S. 90-day travel ban comes into effect Thursday morning, it's the so-called Disneylander who will face the most difficulty getting into the country.

A "Disneylander", as described by Toronto-based immigration lawyer Stephen Green, would be a permanent resident in Canada who hails from one of the six countries included in the ban and is seeking a U.S. visa but does not meet the exemption laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. Those excluded from the ban, according to the top court, would be able to prove a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

So, permanent residents originally from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who are students attending school in the U.S., have work permits or who have familial ties to the U.S. should have no issue getting in, said Green.

"The permanent resident from Iran who applies for a visa who has no connection but just wants to go to Disneyland, they're not going to be allowed," he said.

'Small amount' of people 

And that will probably affect only a "very very small amount" of people, he said.

​The U.S. administration had said a 90-day travel ban was needed on national security grounds to allow an internal review of screening procedures for visa applicants from the six countries. Opponents had challenged the ban in court, saying it was an unlawful bar based on visitors' Muslim religion.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a limited version of U.S. President Donald Trump's ban on travel from the six, mostly Muslim countries to take effect. The court's opinion explained the kinds of relationships people from the six countries must demonstrate to obtain a U.S. visa. The original ban did not include such exemptions.

"It's kind of an interesting compromise," said Green. "Anyone applying for a visa has to have generally some form of connection or reason to go to the United States."

According to a cable obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, consular officers may grant exemptions to applicants from the six nations if they are a legal resident of Canada who applies for a visa in Canada.

'Smoke and mirrors'

But Green said in practical terms, not much has changed than before the ban, with the exception of the "Disneylander." Individuals from those countries already have to go through security clearances which can take up to three to six months, he said.

It's "smoke and mirrors," he said. 

Last May, protesters demonstrated against Trump's revised travel ban outside a federal courthouse in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

But Toronto-based immigration lawyer Paul VanderVennen said while Canadian citizens or dual citizens won't be affected by this ban, he believes it's less clear when it comes to permanent residents.

"It's not entirely clear that those people wouldn't have a problem trying to enter the U.S. at this time," he said.

Vague exemption rules

VanderVennen said there are a lot of "grey areas" in the exemption categories laid out by the Supreme Court.

Those grey areas include the definition of a "close family member." According to the cable, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiancés or other extended family members are not considered to be close relationships.

Back in January, Trump's first executive order on travel took effect immediately, causing chaos and panic at airports over that last weekend of the month as the Homeland Security Department scrambled to figure out whom the order covered and how it was to be implemented.

While VanderVennen doesn't expect a repeat of the chaos, he said it's possible that when the ban comes into effect Thursday, there could be delays at airports or at the border. 

'This is different'

"You could expect that when this is brand new and everyone is trying to figure it out, there will be delays. How significant, I don't really know," he said. "The first time it came right out of the blue. People had their visas and tickets and were ready to fly. This is different."

Green was much more confident that it will run more smoothly this time. 

"I think that everyone is pretty much versed on it because of the disarray that occurred with the first time it came out. I think everyone's learned from that and I think everyone is in a much better position than they were."

Meanwhile, a 120-day ban on all refugees also is being allowed to take effect on a limited basis.

"We've had a flow of people from the U.S. and other places of the world coming," said Toronto-based immigration lawyer Robin Seligman.  "The impact we may feel will be people showing up at out borders making refugee claims."


Mark Gollom


Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

With files from The Associated Press


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