Expanded Authority in Visa Revocation at Consulates20 May 2011
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently published a final rule giving U.S. consular officers, posted at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, increased power to revoke previously-approved nonimmigrant (temporary) visa foils (known as “stamps”). The changed regulations also provide for authority to temporarily revoke approved nonimmigrant visas, while a final revocation is under consideration. This new rule became effective April 27, 2011, when it appeared in that day’s edition of the Federal Register.
Consular Officers’ Discretion to Revoke Nonimmigrant Visas
The effect of this regulation, as explained by the DOS, is to expand the consular officers’ visa revocation authority to the full extent allowed by law. The regulation now permits consular officers to revoke already-approved visas at any time after issuance, at the sole discretion of the officers. The prior regulation allowed consular officers to revoke visas in somewhat more limited circumstances. As explained below, reconsideration is no longer an option. The visas discussed here are nonimmigrant, temporary visas. These are the “lettered” visas familiar to regular MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers, such as B-1/B-2 (visitor), F-1 (student), H1B (temporary worker), and L-1 (intercompany transferee).
Reasons: Not Qualifying for Visa or Later Ineligibility
The DOS states that, on occasion, after a visa has been granted to an individual, information becomes available that shows the visa holder either was not qualified to receive the visa or has become ineligible for the visa after its issuance. In these circumstances, there is authority in the law for revocation of visas. Limitations on this authority were made by regulation, which the DOS believes needed to be changed due to security concerns.
Provisional and Final Visa Revocation Procedures
In this new regulation, the DOS has eliminated previously-existing procedures for reconsideration of visa revocation decisions made by consular officers. In place of these provisions, the revised regulations created a procedure for temporary, provisional visa revocation. This allows a temporary revocation, pending the outcome of an investigation as to whether a final revocation is appropriate. If an individual, whose visa is temporarily revoked, is later found to be eligible for that visa, the visa will be reinstated with no need for a new visa application. If, however, a final revocation is issued by a consular officer or other DOS official, then the individual needs to apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Procedure for Consular Officer to Revoke Visa
The provisions state that, unless otherwise instructed by the DOS, the consular officer shall, if practicable, notify the foreign national that the nonimmigrant visa has been revoked (or provisionally revoked). In all cases, once the revocation is entered into the appropriate database, known as the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS), the visa is no longer valid for travel to the United States. If the consular officer has the individual’s passport with the visa, the visa shall be canceled by writing or stamping ‘REVOKED’ plainly across the face of the visa. This procedure is followed only if the consular officer is in possession of the passport; if not, the revocation may take place as described above, without physically canceling the visa stamp in the passport.
The DOS explains that this change is tied to security concerns. The final impact of this regulation and the extent to which the authority will be used is not yet clear. A number of situations might arise that would not present security concerns, but where the revocation of the visa would not be inappropriate because the individual clearly is no longer eligible. As of this writing, we at the Murthy Law Firm have not seen an increase in the use of the visa revocation authority since the regulatory change was announced. However, it is too early to determine the overall impact of this change.
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