Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Consul’

29th April 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the discretionary powers accorded to Consular Officers at United States Missions abroad with regard to visa issuance are to be expanded to provide further latitude to Consular Officers with regard to the revocation of US visas. To quote directly from Justia.com:

This rule changes Department regulations to broaden the authority of a consular officer to revoke a visa at any time subsequent to issuance of the visa, in his or her discretion. These changes to the Department’s revocation regulations expand consular officer visa revocation authority to the full extent allowed by statute. Additionally, this rule change allows consular officers and designated officials within the Department to revoke a visa provisionally while considering a final visa revocation.

Clearly, this rule would expand the authority currently granted to Consular Officers in adjudicating American visa matters. For those who are unfamiliar with this topic it should be noted that Consular Officers currently maintain virtually un-reviewable discretion in matters pertaining to US visa application adjudication. This discretion occurs pursuant to a doctrine referred to as Consular Non-Reviewability (or colloquially referred to as Consular Absolutism). Pursuant to the philosophy underlying this doctrine Courts in the United States are unlikely to review the decisions of a Consular Officer at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad unless the Consular Officer’s decision in the matter appears “facially illegitimate” to the Court of competent jurisdiction.

Bearing this in mind the announcement went on to point out the reasoning behind the recent decision to make this rule change:

On occasion, after a visa has been issued, the Department or a consular officer may determine that a visa should be revoked when information reveals that the applicant was originally or has since become ineligible or may be ineligible to possess a U.S. visa. Section 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1201(i)) (INA) authorizes the Secretary and consular officers to revoke a visa in their discretion. Current regulations limit the circumstances in which consular officers may revoke visas. In light of security concerns, this amendment grants additional authority to consular officers to revoke visas, consistent with the statutory provisions of the INA. Although this rule eliminates the provisions that permit reconsideration of a revocation, it also allows for the provisional revocation of a visa when there is a need for further consideration of information that might lead to a final revocation. 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.

In this blogger’s opinion, this rule change could have significant ramifications for prospective visa applicants. That stated, it remains to be seen what the practical implications of this rule change will be. The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click on the above hyperlinks to learn more about this topic on Justia.com.

It should be noted that within the text of this memo it was pointed out that this rule is being promulgated pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act. To quote one final time from the aforementioned document:

This regulation involves a foreign affairs function of the United States and, therefore, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553 (a) (1), is not subject to the rule making procedures set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553.

Those who have read this blog in the past may recall that the United States Department of State maintains a mandate to conduct the foreign affairs of the United States and one of the duties that is entailed within this mandate is the duty to adjudicate applications for a US visa. This can include applications for visas such as the B-2 visa (for those wishing to engage in recreational travel in the United States), the K-1 visa (a US fiance visa for the foreign fiance of a US Citizen), the CR-1 visa or IR-1 visa (for the spouse of an American Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident), or, in increasingly rare instances, a K-3 visa (which is a non-immigrant spouse visa for the husband or wife of an American Citizen). It is even posited that this new discretion could have an effect upon adjudication of L-1 visa and EB-5 visa applications, as well as the possible aftermath thereof. In any case, increased Consular discretion is likely to have an impact upon visa applications across the categorical spectrum of American travel documents.

For related information please see: K-1 Visa Thailand or K-1 Visa Cambodia.

For information related to waivers of grounds of inadmissibility (ineligibility) please see: I-601 waiver or I-212 waiver.

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9th October 2009

There are many misconceptions regarding the authority that officers at the United States Consulate in Thailand have. Many people mistakenly believe that legal concepts such as due process apply to matters going before US Consular officers. In reality, this is not the case. Consular officers have very broad powers when it comes to adjudicating applications for United States visas. There are laws on the books that Consular Officers must observe when determining whether or not a US visa should be issued, but when making factual determinations, the doctrine commonly referred to as Consular Absolutism applies to their decisions.

The Doctrine of Consular Absolutism basically states that the factual decisions of Consular Officers are not subject to appeal. This legal notion is also  called Consular Nonreviewability. In the case of Bustamante v. Mukasey the 9th Circuit Court of appeals concisely summed up the limited scope of judicial review that will be granted with regard to a Consular decisions in visa matters:

“[A] U.S citizen raising a constitutional challenge to the denial of a visa is entitled to a limited judicial inquiry regarding the reason for the decision. As long as the reason given is facially legitimate and bona fide the decision will not be disturbed…”

Showing that a Consular Officer’s reason for their decision is facially illegitimate or not bona fide is extremely difficult, if not, practically impossible. As a result, their decisions regarding visa issuance are essentially final.

Many wonder why Consuls are accorded such broad powers. The reason these officers are granted this ability to make unappealable decisions is based upon the policy argument that a Consular Officer is in the absolute best position to adjudicate the facts of a given visa application. In a way, Consular officers and the Doctrine of Consular Absolutism are the first lines of defense when it comes to preventing the entry of unqualified aliens into the United States of America.  They are also the first line of defense when it comes to determining fraud, misrepresentation, possible terrorist suspects, and facts which could result in a finding of legal inadmissibility. Therefore, Consular officers must be provided with the authority to deny visa applications that they find either suspicious or deficient.

This is why in visa cases involving family members it is very important to prove up the bona fides of the underlying relationship. A K1 visa application is based upon a relationship between a US Citizen and a foreign national. Proving the bona fides of this relationship can be crucial to a favorable decision. This is also true for marriage visas such as the K3 visa and the CR1 visa.

Although, some have questioned the wisdom of granting such broad powers the prerogatives exercised by Consular officers are not abused as those in the Consular Corps perform their duties efficiently, courteously, and thoughtfully. That being said, there are cases where the applicant must be denied for factual reasons. The only way to facilitate this necessity is to provide Consular Officers with a wide degree of discretion in adjudicating visa applications.

Another very valid policy argument for the retention of the Doctrine of Consular Absolutism (Consular Nonreviewability) is based upon the notion that allowing for an appeals process in US visa cases would create a tremendous administrative burden upon the Department of State specifically and the United States government generally. Therefore, it is unlikely that this situation will change in the near future.

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