Part 2: (In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at the US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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The first indicator of the questionable nature of these Voluntary Statements are the lengths to which consular officers go to obstruct their disclosure to the visa applicant. As a general rule and enshrined by Section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, visa records are considered confidential and not subject to disclosure. However, there is an exception for documentation submitted by the applicant; such documents are subject to disclosure.

In the case of the Voluntary Statements in India, the consular officer does not give a copy to the applicant at the conclusion of the interview.  This, notwithstanding the draconian visa consequences and criminal liability that the applicant has been exposed to by signing the Voluntary Statement.

The consular officer’s “Bible”, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), makes it abundantly clear that these statements are releasable to the applicant:

2. d. (U) Documents Releasable to Applicant: The documents listed below
are deemed releasable to an applicant as they constitute the applicant’s
original source documents. Consequently, returning the following documents
to the applicant does not violate the INA 222(f) requirement of
confidentiality. These documents include:

(1) (U) Correspondence previously sent to or given to the applicant by the
(2) (U) Civil documents presented by the applicant (see paragraph (f)
below); and
(3) (U) Visa applications and any other documents, including sworn
, submitted by the applicant to you in the form in which they
were submitted; i.e., with any remarks or notations by U.S. Government
employees deleted.​​

9 FAM 603.2-8 (d). Emphasis added.

The legacy FAM, i.e., the predecessor to the current version of the Foreign Affairs Manual, had an identical requirement.[1]

So why is it that an applicant’s requests for a copy of these statements are routinely ignored by consular staff in India?  Why is it that these applicants often must hire a lawyer to obtain a copy of a document that they are entitled to under the law? The author first brought this to the attention of the Visa Office more than five years ago, yet consular officers in India to this day continue to rebuff requests for these Statements – in fact, misleading applicants into believing that, “under US immigration law,” they are not entitled to copies of these Statements. Why? Hints will come in the next article in this series.

[1] 9 FAM 40.4 N5.3 (Documents Releasable to Applicant: “visa applications and any other documents, including sworn statements, submitted by the applicant to you…”).