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Visa Revocation

It is not unusual for a consular officer to issue a visa, and after new information comes to light, to call the visa holder back to the consulate to revoke the visa. There are three primary situations when a visa can be revoked:

  1. if the holder is inadmissible to the United States on security, criminal, medical, financial or other grounds;
  2. if the holder of a nonimmigrant visa is not entitled to the visa because he does not meet the criteria for the visa category (Section 214(b)); or
  3. if a potential reason for inadmissibility or ineligibility, usually involving law enforcement, is suspected (“prudential revocation”).

The decision to revoke a visa can originate from the State Department in Washington, D.C. or with the consular officer at a consulate.

From 2001 to 2015, approximately 122,000 visas were revoked. During this time, use of the visa revocation process has intensified, with “prudential revocation” becoming more and more frequent.

Revocation Process

Before revoking the visa, the consular officer usually is obliged to invite the visa holder to the consulate for an interview and give him a chance to show why the visa should not be revoked. The reality is that usually this revocation is just a formality; the decision was predetermined before the person visits the consulate. When revoking the visa, the officer will write by hand or stamp the word Cancelled or Revoked; notify — or should notify — the person on what legal grounds the visa was revoked; make an entry into the visa system; and complete a Certificate of Revocation of Visa. If the visa holder cannot be found, the officer will notify airlines of the revocation. If the person is already en route to the United States, he will be detained and have his visa revoked at the port of entry.

Visa revocations while a person is in the United States are becoming more and more prevalent. For example, this may happen if the visa holder was involved in a criminal incident while in the United States. According to the Department of State, it will not analyze whether the incident in question is sufficient to serve as a basis for a visa denial or finding of inadmissibility; it will make the decision to revoke the visa and allow the applicant to “make his case” for a new visa at a subsequent interview to a consular officer. Thus, even a minor incident such as disorderly conduct or a criminal case in which the charges were dropped will not impact the DOS decision to revoke the visa. Once the State Department is notified of this incident by law enforcement — and this can be in a matter of days — a consular officer will send an e-mail or try to call the applicant to advise him that his visa has been revoked. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this revocation does not impact his status in the United States — he does not need to depart immediately. Only if an immigration judge makes a decision to remove would his lawful status be terminated.

Source of Information

Besides criminal incidents, the source of the negative information leading to the revocation can vary — from a jilted American (e.g., accusing his desired spouse of being a spy), a competitor (e.g., alleging that the visa holder owes money), a disgruntled ex-spouse (e.g., saying that he owes child support), a former business partner (e.g., contending that he is involved in drugs), or a debtor in the United States who wants to cut off access to US courts (e.g., notifying the consulate that he believes that the holder plans to remain in the US illegally on his nonimmigrant visa). Obviously, the motives of these individuals may not be legitimate. Sometimes, the accusations alone, even if true, may not be legal grounds for revocation of the visa. But too often, the consular officer will err on the side of caution or take the word of an American party on its face in revoking a visa.

Sometimes, the consular officer will take the initiative and research the visa usage of a holder. If the officer finds anything questionable in the usage, he will call the holder to the consulate and confront her with the negative information. For example, if an individual applies for a visa and indicates he plans to visit the US with another person who already has a visa, the officer may investigate that individual’s usage of the visa. If the visa holder spent prolonged time in the US, leading to consular suspicion of illegal work or residing in the US, he may be called in for an interview. If the holder does not convince the officer of the legitimate usage of the visa, the officer will revoke the visa.

How Can W&A Help?

If your visa has been revoked and you believe that it was done without valid cause, you should aggressively challenge the decision. A visa revocation is a serious matter, which can implicate a permanent bar from the United States or many years of an inability to receive a visa. If you are in the US in lawful employment status and your visa has been revoked, your family members’ ability to obtain visas may be adversely impacted. These cases can be very complicated.

While there is a legal mechanism available, called visa reinstatement, to “reactivate” a visa, the consular officer will usually advise the person to just reapply for a new visa. This requires a new application and payment of a new fee. We can assist you in preparing your request for a new visa and ensure that proper consideration and review is undertaken by the consular officer. Please contact us to discuss your situation in more detail.

Case Studies

Mr. M was convicted in his home country of Belarus under an archaic provision of the criminal code for “exceeding” his authority in his capacity as a director in his company. The consular officer found that the conviction was for a crime of moral turpitude and permanently barred Mr. M. from the United States. Mr. M. retained our firm, and we conducted an in-depth analysis of crimes which fall under the purview of the statute in question. We presented our findings and arguments to the lawyers in the State Department, who found that the crime did not constitute a crime of moral turpitude and cancelled the inadmissibility bar.

Case of E.M.