Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Consular Nonreviewability’

2nd October 2010

Many American Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who vacation or live abroad meet someone special while in another country and wish to bring that special someone back to the United States of America. Under those circumstances, some pose the question: “Can I bring my foreign girlfriend, or boyfriend, back to the United States on an American tourist visa?” In the context of Vietnam, many ponder the more specific question: “Can I bring my Vietnamese Girlfriend (or Boyfriend) back to the USA on an American tourist visa?” Depending upon the facts of a given case, a Consular Officer at a United States Embassy or Consulate abroad will make a determination as to visa suitability on a case by case basis. Pursuant to the doctrine of Consular Absolutism, Consular Officer have virtually unfettered discretion when it comes to making factual decisions regarding visa issuance. In the context of Non-Immigrant visas this discretion can have a major impact upon an individual’s ability to bring a Vietnamese loved one back to the USA from Vietnam on a US Visitor Visa. In a significant number of cases US visitor visas are denied to the boyfriends and girlfriends of Americans. This is often due to a relatively little known section of the US Immigration and Nationality Act known as Section 214(b).

Section 214(b) of the INA requires that Consular Officers adjudicating non-immigrant visas abroad (J1 visa, F1 visa, B1 visa, B2 visa, etc.) presume that the applicant is actually an intending immigrant unless that applicant can show evidence to the contrary. This presumption is legally required, but many believe that US tourist visa denials are some sort of personal rejection. In point of fact, 214 (b) would seem to be a very high threshold to overcome by the applicant as the law presumes that they are intending immigrants unless documentation or evidence can be provided to mitigate this presumption. As a result, a sort of “strong ties” vs. “weak ties” analysis is often utilized to deal with this problem. Tourist visa applicants of Vietnamese origin generally must show strong ties to Vietnam (or another country abroad) and weak ties to the USA. In many cases, the mere presence of an American significant other is enough to make 214(b) virtually insurmountable since such a relationship could be construed as a “strong tie” to the USA.

In the past, some attempted to the use the American Tourist Visa as a means of bypassing the comparatively longer processing times associated with US Family Visa applications. That said, this is an unwise course of action as it could be construed as visa fraud to knowingly seek non-immigrant visa benefits in order to enter the USA, marry a US Citizen, and thereafter file for Immigrant visa benefits. Penalties for visa fraud can be quite severe. Therefore, those wishing to immigrate to then USA are well advised to apply for the proper visa category.

Those seeking Family Immigration benefits should note that entering into a relationship merely to acquire visa benefits could also be viewed as fraud. Therefore, couples seeking immigration benefits should do so only if a petition or application is based upon a bona fide relationship.

For related information please see: US Visa Burmese Girlfriend or K1 Visa Vietnam.

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17th April 2010

In previous posts, this author has discussed visa runs and border runs. Another common method of obtaining lawful status in the form of a Thai visa is by traveling to Thai Embassies and Consulates outside of the Kingdom of Thailand. This can be a difficult endeavor for some, but the difficulty can be increased as Embassies and Consulates change their internal rules frequently. This is a by-product of doctrines similar to that of Consular Absolutism also known as Consular NonReviewability. This doctrine states, in a nutshell, that Consular Officers are given wide latitude to use their own discretion when making factual determinations about visa issuance.

Recently, this author has learned that the Royal Thai Embassy Kuala Lumpur will no longer issue the 1 year multiple entry Thai business visa to those with a work permit that is valid for less than 7 months. In the past, it was routine to see the 1 year Thailand business visa issued to those with a valid work permit regardless of the duration of its validity. Now, it seems that only a 90 day business visa will be granted to those with a Thai work permit that is valid for less than 7 months.

In recent years, the Thailand work permit and the Thailand visa have been effectively “decoupled” in the sense that one is no longer necessarily dependent upon the other. For a long period of time one had to have a work permit in order to obtain a Thai visa extension. Once that extension was obtained one needed to then extend the work permit so that the two documents’ validity were in sync. This has changed as the Ministry of Labour is more apt to grant a 1 year work permit to first time applicants and then the applicant can easily obtain a visa extension. The side effect of this system is that Thai Embassies and Consulates are increasingly less willing to issue one year Thai visas since their personnel view the decision regarding issuance of such a long term travel document ought to be made by the Royal Thai Immigration Police in the Kingdom of Thailand.

When analyzed, this policy makes sense as the Royal Thai Immigration Police in Thailand are often better equipped to adjudicate visa extension requests. However, there are often very compelling reasons why an applicant would wish to obtain a 1 year multiple entry visa from outside of Thailand. One notable reason, such a travel document would not require the issuance of a Thai Reentry Permit as would be necessary if a one year visa extension were issued.

It should be noted that each Thai Consular and/or Diplomatic Post has a different set of rules with regard to visa issuance so what is the rule at one post may not be the same at another.

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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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