How WhatsApp Messages Can Lead to Cancelled Visas, Expedited Removal, and Permanent Bans

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Just because you have arrived at an airport in the United States does not mean that you are protected by the US Constitution and the right to be free from unreasonable searches. This is the unfortunate lesson learned by hundreds of travelers each day to the US.  Worse, the messages on one’s own phone can lead to a cancelled visa, a return trip home, and a permanent ban on entry. As international travel has reemerged after the pandemic, so have the problems experienced by international visitors to the US. Just over the past few months we have conducted numerous consultations with individuals subject to intrusive CBP searches at the airports, including luggage checks and the contents of telephones.  These searches have led to accusations of unlawful employment (most common), prostitution, drug use, intent to remain in the US beyond the length of permitted stay, intent to marry, and intent to…

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5 Years? 10? 20? How Far Back Will a Consular Officer Look for a Misrepresentation or Alien Smuggling?

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People thought that with the passing of the Trump Administration, Department of State visa policies would become more tempered and that enforcement would moderate from the Trump-era extremes.  People, unfortunately, could not have been more wrong. Statutes of limitations exist for good reason: due process, basic fairness, evidence that becomes stale over the years, the disappearance or death of witnesses, fading memories, and to prevent inconsistent decisions.  But as discussed in a previous blog, there is no statute of limitations in visa law. And so consular officers are free to go back and review previous visa applications and time spent in the United States to determine whether a misrepresentation (Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i))  had been made at the time of the visa application or at the time of entry to the United States, or whether the individual had engaged in alien smuggling (Section 212(a)(6)(E)).  Critically, this holds true whether a consular officer…

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Innocent Visa Applicants Applying for Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Waivers

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With the dramatic upsurge in consular decisions to permanently bar visa applicants from the United States, the question of applying for an immigrant or nonimmigrant waiver has become more and more acute.  Many immigration lawyers will advise to just accept the decision, admit that you were wrong, say you are sorry, and apply for the waiver. They say that your chances of receiving the waiver will be increased if you admit your guilt and express remorse, even if you did not do anything wrong. But what if you are not “guilty”?  What if you did not commit a material misrepresentation (Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i))? Or engage in alien smuggling (Section 212(a)(6)(E))? Or commit a crime of moral turpitude (Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I))?  Should you admit you were wrong? Of course not. There are legal mechanisms to challenge such lifechanging decisions, such as a Request for Reconsideration.  Sometimes, the supervisor of the consular officer or…

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Rights of Visa Applicants

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You have rights.  Yes, if you have been denied a visa, you have rights. The Department of State’s Customer Statement lists only some of those rights, as follow: We promise to you, the visa applicant, that: We will treat you with dignity and respect, even if we are unable to grant you a visa. We will treat you as an individual and your case as unique. We will remember that, to you, a visa interview may be a new or intimidating experience and that you may be nervous. We will use the limited time available for the interview to get as full a picture as possible of your travel plans and intentions. We will use our available resources to fairly assist all applicants to get appointments to allow travel in time for business, study, and other important obligations. We will post detailed and accurate information on visa requirements and application…

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Immigrant Waivers – New Hope for the Refused?

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Previously, USCIS overseas offices had responsibility for reviewing I-601 immigrant waiver applications. This led to inconsistent adjudications among various overseas offices and extreme variations in processing times.  We first discussed the patent unfairness of this system on this blog back in November 2011.  To remedy these problems, in June 2012 USCIS centralized the processing of I-601 waivers at the Nebraska Service Center in the United States.  The impact can now be seen, and should give those who had been previously denied by a USCIS overseas office hope. As noted in our 2011 blog, the approval rates at certain USCIS overseas offices were dismal at best.  For example, in Accra, Ghana, which had jurisdiction and reviewed waiver applications from numerous countries in Africa, its approval rate in 2010 was 22%.  The Rome USCIS Office had an approval rate of 25%.  Moscow and Athens hovered around 40%.  Contrast that with the approval…

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