State Department Issues New Visa Revocation Rule

American consular officials will have broad discretion to revoke both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas under a new rule issued by the U.S. Department of State (State Department or DOS) on April 27, 2011. The new rule took effect on the date of its publication in the Federal Register. (See Final Rule: Visas: Documentation of Nonimmigrants Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended, U.S. Department of State, 76 Fed. Reg. 23477, 27.Apr.2011.)

According to the State Department, the new rule expands the revocation authority of its consular officers to the maximum extent allowed by law – a move it said was prompted by security concerns, noting that the old regulations limited the circumstances under which a consular officer could revoke visas. The DOS said that revocation is used “on occasion” after a visa has already been issued, when information comes to light indicating that the visa applicant was ineligible at the time the visa was issued, or has become ineligible – or may become ineligible – to have a U.S. visa.

Under the new rule, consular officers will be allowed to revoke visas provisionally, giving them the chance to consider information that might lead to a final visa revocation. What happens after a revocation? The DOS explained:

“In cases where the person subject to a provisional revocation is found to be eligible for the visa, the visa will be reinstated with no need for reapplication. However, with the exception of provisional revocations, an applicant whose visa has been revoked must apply for another visa, at which time his or her eligibility for the visa will be adjudicated.”

The new rule further notes that reconsideration of revocations will no longer be allowed.

What is most disquieting is that these visa revocations may occur without notice to the visa holder. The new regulations make no guarantee that visa holders will find out that their visas have been revoked or provisionally revoked; they merely provide that consular officers shall – if practicable – notify the visa holder of this fact – unless the DOS instructs the CO not to provide such notice. Whether or not the visa holder gets actual notice, the revoked visa is no longer valid for travel to the United States, once the revocation is entered into the State Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS).

Under the new rule, consular officers may revoke immigrant or nonimmigrant visas by physically canceling them – writing or stamping REVOKED across the face of a visa – but the visas need not be physically cancelled for the revocation to be effective. The rule also enumerates a variety of circumstances under which an immigration officer may revoke a nonimmigrant visa.

We will keep our readers posted of further developments in this area. In the unlikely event that you receive notice that your visa has been revoked, or revoked provisionally, the best course of action is to consult with a qualified immigration attorney immediately. The Murthy Law Firm stands ready to assist you.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.