Post-Supreme Court ruling, Trump's travel ban is as confusing as ever - universities
Welcome to the United States. Please show us your "bona fide relationship" with the country. Pic: Reuters/James Lawler Duggan/File Photo.

What Trump calls a “clear victory” is hardly illuminating for universities around the country, who now have to review the Supreme Court’s decision this Monday on the US president’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries.

The country’s highest court had ruled that they will review the legal basis of the ban on travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In the meantime, parts of the ban can be implemented, to the effect that the Trump administration can block people from the six Muslim-majority countries if they cannot prove a “bona fide relationship” in the US.

This phrase is baffling international students and universities nationwide.

Schools like the University of Illinois are taking a “cautiously optimistic” approach in interpreting the phrase even though they believe their school fits the “bona fide relationship” criterion.

“When they come to us and say can I travel, we should be able to give them a straight answer. The fact that we can’t is incredibly frustrating not just to us, but for them as well,” university officials say, as quoted by Illinois

Around 200 students and faculty at the University of Illinois expect to be affected by the ban in one way or another, including prospective students.

Some students are warned to not leave the country in the meantime. Pic: Reuters/James Lawler Duggan.

Reuters reports that the Supreme Court had given examples on people who may qualify for exemptions, such as those with close family ties in the US, employment offers as well as acceptance offer by an US university.

A guide distributed by the US Department of State and seen by Reuters appears to show a narrow interpretation of the court’s ruling.

It is reported to state that visa applicants to the country must show a relationship with a US entity that “must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading the E.O.,” referring to the Trump’s March 6 executive order banning travel into the US by citizens of the six countries.

The guidance further said certain groups will be excluded from the ban, such as those with valid student visas “as their bona fide relationship to a person or entity is inherent in the visa classification.”

The State Department has declined to comment on the internal communication when asked about the guidance by Reuters on Wednesday night.

Until the next Supreme Court date, things remain murky for international students. Pic: Reuters/Yuri Gripas.

To Iowa State University‘s (ISU) Krista McCallum Beatty, who heads the school’s International Students and Scholars Office, much remains unknown.

In a statement, Beatty said Iowa State “anticipates that most ISU international students and international scholars from the six affected countries will be exempt from the travel ban,” reports The Gazette.

“This will become clearer as international students and international scholars enter the US.”

Students at the University of Iowa (UI) have been told they can currently stay in the US if they maintain their current visa status.

But Downing Thomas, UI’s Associate Provost cautioned against traveling outside the country, saying: “If you do, you may not be able to re-enter the country.”

The situation is likely to remain murky until the court makes its final call on the president’s authority, according to Christopher Malloy, who directs UI’s Student Legal Services.

Malloy believes Monday’s decision could exempt prospective students from the affected countries who want to apply to a university so long as they use the traditional student visa method.

“That is just my initial impression,” Malloy said, adding it will ultimately boil down to how the State Department and authorities interprets the order in the meantime.

Trump’s travel ban have had a chilling impact on international student recruitment – nearly 40 percent of US universities report declining interest from overseas, a survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) in March showed.

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