Integrity Legal

2nd December 2009

The United States Department of State is tasked with overseeing the efficient operation of US Embassies and Consulates abroad. Often, State Department headquarters issues instructions to posts abroad using official cables. In US Immigration circles there is a well known cable called “99 State,” otherwise known as 99 State 21138. This cable lays out guidelines for Consular Officers with regard to United States Immigration Attorneys.

The first notable policy outlined in the Cable deals with the relationship between Immigration attorneys and Consular Officers:

“The relationship between consular officers and immigration attorneys can be productive. Consular officers can often learn a great deal from a conscientious attorney, and vice versa.”

There is no doubt in this author’s mind that this is true. Consular officers provide a great deal of assistance when processing visa applications. More than anything, they can provide insight into the underlying policy reasons behind failure to issue a visa. In many cases, the reason for delay is due to a failure to provide pertinent information that the client did not believe was necessary to adjudicate the petition.

The Cable goes further:

“Consular officers should not pass judgment on applicants who choose to employ the services of an attorney. Some people are more comfortable working through an attorney no matter how straightforward or simple the visa case may appear to the consular officer.”

This is one section of the cable that Consular Officers seem to have taken to heart. This author has never felt that Consular Officers look askance at applications where the petitioner or beneficiary has retained an attorney to assist in preparation. With regard to case preparation, the Cable goes further:

“One important service that attorneys provide to their clients is making sure that forms are correctly completed and necessary supporting documentation presented at the time of the interview.”

Consular Officers are required to adjudicate petitions and, if the petitions receive approval, issue visas. In this author’s experience their primary goal seems to be efficient processing of bona fide petitions. Immigration attorneys can enhance the process through documentation compilation and foreknowledge of relevant issues. Those issues that may effect the outcome of a case can be dealt with in such a way that case processing proceeds smoothly. In many ways the Consulate forestalls unforeseen delays through promulgation of consistent rules:

“Posts that establish clear and consistent procedures for responding to attorney inquiries save time and resources in the long run. As with Congressional correspondence, the fuller the explanation of a refusal or a 221(g) decision, the more you will help yourself.”

It has been this author’s experience that Consular staff are very upfront about what they are seeking in a given case. Further, the role of an attorney is clearly defined by the US Embassy Thailand as no one is allowed to be present during the visa interview, this includes American fiances and husbands in K1 visa and K3 visa cases. This being said, attorneys are currently permitted to submit 221(g) follow-up documentation where necessary.

In the years since the distribution of “99 State,” it is this author’s opinion that Consular Officer-Immigration attorney relations are professional, efficient, and cordial and there is no reason to believe that this will not continue to be the case.



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26 Responses to “State Department Cable 99 and the Role of Immigration Attorneys”

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