U.s. Consular Affairs by Glenn R. Morales, Attorney at Law, Private International Law.
The United States is, perhaps, one of the only countries in the world that receives more than 9 million visa applications annually, from citizens of all nationalities, who wish to do business, live, work, study or simply visit the country.
It is very common, among circles of friends, families or employees, to consider the interview at the U.S. Consulate and the approval of the application for an American visa as "a matter of luck."
During their interviews with visa applicants, Consular officers evaluate all of the documents submitted, to be able to determine the granting, the refusal or the cancellation of an American visa. Any unreliable or false data clearly influences and, indeed, determines the decision to approve an application for a visa to visit the United States.
During the interview, a fixed set of security measures and legal and administrative procedures are put into operation to determine the granting or refusal of a visa, whether "immigrant" or "non-immigrant", and the “luck” factor is indeed relative, as each application and the circumstances surrounding it are unique, the results of which often give rise to a series of myths and false beliefs.
Such myths, false beliefs, and arbitrary comments and opinions are generally based on previous interviews and can negatively affect an applicant when he has to go for an interview to apply for an American visa, regardless of the type, whether it is “Tourist” or a “Resident” visa he is applying for.
It is quite clear that the views of the employees of unauthorized travel agents, friends and family members can, and do, affect the results of an application for a new visa or the renewal of a previously granted one. This triggers a series of conflicts, confusion, anger and stress when the request is denied, and the applicant then has no idea of what he should do or who to turn to for advice. Many unscrupulous people, who present themselves as “experts in U.S. visa applications”, take advantage of this situation of despair to make some money from the misfortunes of such unsuccessful applicants, regardless of their nationality, their creed or their political and socio-economic status. The mishandling of applications by such unscrupulous people can often drag other family members, from any geographic region of the planet, into unfortunate circumstances with regard to their relationships with the U.S. Consulate and its officers in their own countries.
When a foreigner appears at a U.S. Consulate to request a new visa or renew a previous one of any sort, he must submit the application form, duly filled-in, and accompanied by the relevant documents requested, to be able to have a personal interview with a consular officer, who will then determine whether the applicant is eligible or not for the visa being requested.
The Consular Officer reviews the application form and assesses the evidence available to ensure that the applicant has no intention of staying to live and/or to work illegally in the United States. As such, there are many factors that influence the granting or renewing of an American visa.
Past and present criminal activities, within or outside the U.S., will affect visa applications or renewals at any American Consulate in any geographical region of the world, irrespective of the applicant’s economic, social, religious, or political status.
Many foreigners who belong, have belonged or have collaborated with extreme “leftist” groups accused of terrorist activities anywhere in the world, or who belong or have belonged to religious sects that are identified as subversive, may find that their visa applications are rejected at any U.S. Consulate worldwide. On many occasions, not only have visa applications been refused, but even valid visas have actually been cancelled for people who really have no links at all to such organizations but appear to do so. Such a situation leaves the applicant annoyed and indignant, as he feels that his honor and reputation have been tarnished.
In fact, there have even been cases in which a foreigner’s valid U.S. visa has actually been cancelled, without any explanation and without his having had a previous interview with a consular official. The behavior of many foreign governments and their officials is scrutinized and evaluated by the U.S. State Department and certainly affects the granting of visas for such officials and other government employees of such countries. On the other hand, certain foreign political figures, who have had their applications for a U.S. visa refused or have had a valid visa cancelled, may sometimes be given permission to enter to the United States for specific government functions on behalf of their countries.
Requests for re-entry to the United States after deportation proceedings or cancellation of a U.S. visa at the moment of entry at an immigration check-point at an airport or land border-post, require adequate legal assistance for the applicant to be able to recover such a visa, and the waiting-time is undetermined. The applicant must be calm and patient until the case is settled by the Immigration Service of United States or by the U.S. Consulate in his country of origin or his country of residence.
During the interview at the U.S. Consulate, multiple factors, many of which are unknown to the applicant, will determine the granting or the refusal of his visa application, factors which often involve research processes at the consular level or by federal authorities in the United States. It is quite common for a Consular Officer to say to an applicant, "I´m sorry Sir, but we are awaiting a response from Washington."
As such, many foreign applicants for visas at U.S. consulates around the globe are frequently subject to a “special review process”, a situation that often worries and exasperates applicants who have urgent family or business matters to attend to in the United States, causing a series of economic and emotional inconveniences that mentally and emotionally upset even the strongest of individuals.
Immigration Officers at airports, seaports and land borders, after carrying out immigration inspection procedures on foreigners who wish to enter U.S. territory, may grant a visa for a minimum period of one day or a maximum of six month’s stay in the U.S.
HOW DOES ONE LOSE AN AMERICAN VISA?
The circumstances under which a valid American visa may be revoked are:
1 .- In the interview with the consular officer when he applies for the renewal of his still valid U.S. visa.
2 .- When the holder of a valid American visa is entering the U.S. through an airport, seaport or land border-post. The Immigration Officer in charge of the port has the authority to do so.
3 .- If the U.S. State Department issues a cancellation order.
The individuals who are most susceptible to losing their valid American visa in any country of the world, and even when they are on American soil, are the following:
1 .- Parents, sons or relatives of foreigners already living in the U.S., regardless of social, economic or religious considerations.
2 .- Businessmen and entrepreneurs.
3 .- Students and teachers.
4 .- Religious ministers of any belief.
5 .- Aviation pilots and merchant seamen.
6 - Politicians or former politicians.
7 .- Military personnel and policemen, or former military personnel and former policemen.
8 .- Individuals linked to narcotics trafficking, money laundering and their collaborators.
9 .- Individuals associated with groups linked to terrorist activities.
10 .- Individuals linked to the trafficking or theft of sensitive technology in any commercial, scientific or technological field.
CONSULAR BACK-LISTING OF FAMILIES
Because of misunderstandings with immigration officials at air, land and sea-ports, or due to the incorrect handling of visa applications, entire families might sometimes be black-listed and systematically refused visas or renewals.
Many foreign company executives, for example, move to the United States to work and to live there with their families, without having obtained all the necessary immigration requirements, such as the L1 intra-company visa, the H1 career visa, or a simple "residence" visa, among others, and hope to be able to arrange these documents once they have entered the country. When they are refused such visas and must return to their countries of origin or residence to deal with their local U.S. Consulates, they sometimes find that their original visa has been revoked and that their entire family has now been refused entry to the United States.
Sanctions and consular refusals of this type seriously affect the applicants’ businesses, both in their countries of origin and in the United States, and almost always disrupt their family life, their housing arrangements and the education of their children.
* Glenn R. Morales, Attorney at Law Associated to Dalrymple, Knight & Elintegra- Thompson- International Law Firms- U.S. Consular Processing and Immigration Law in Venezuela, Colombia - www.usavisasonline.com