June 29, 2017 / 2:54 PM / in a month

U.S. travel ban set to take effect after top court's green light

WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's temporary ban on people from six predominantly Muslim countries and all refugees entering the United States is finally scheduled to take effect later on Thursday, but in a scaled-back form that still allows in some travelers.

The rollout of the controversial measure follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision this week that allowed the executive order to take effect but significantly narrowed its scope, exempting travelers and refugees with a "bona fide relationship" with a person or entity in the United States.

It is set to go into effect at 8 p.m. ET (0000 GMT Friday).

Late Wednesday, the State Department said visa applicants from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen must have a close U.S. family relationship or formal ties to a U.S. entity to be admitted to the United States.

Trump first announced a temporary travel ban in January, calling it a counterterrorism measure to allow time to develop better security vetting. The order caused chaos at airports as officials scrambled to enforce it and was blocked by federal courts, with opponents arguing the measure discriminated against Muslims and there was no security rationale for it.

A revised version of the ban, issued in March, was also halted by courts.

In its decision on Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the ban, which bars people from the designated six countries for 90 days and refugees for 120 days, to go partially into effect until the top court can take up the case later this year.

The State Department guidance on the ban, distributed to all U.S. diplomatic posts and seen by Reuters, defined a close familial relationship as being a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling, including step siblings and other step family relations.

"Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancés, and any other 'extended' family members," are not considered close family, according to the cable, first reported by the Associated Press.

Asked about the guidance, the State Department declined to comment on internal communications.

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to release additional information on Thursday. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Several immigration lawyers expressed surprise late on Wednesday that fiancés, grandparents and grandchildren would not qualify as close family.

"This language is extremely disappointing," said Johnathan Smith, legal director at Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group. "Defining close family to exclude grandparents, cousins, and other relatives defies common sense and directly goes against the intent of the Supreme Court's order."

The ban's looming enforcement stirred anger and confusion in parts of the Middle East on Wednesday, with would-be visitors worried about their travel plans and their futures.

Airlines in the region said they had not received a directive from the United States, and there were few people at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai, where there is normally a line out the door of people waiting to process visa applications.

On Thursday, Emirates Airline, the Middle East's largest airline, said its flights to the United States were operating normally. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said it is allowing nationals from the six countries to board U.S.-bound flights if they have valid travel documents.

Additional writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry

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