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:
- if the holder is inadmissible to the United States on security, criminal, medical, financial or other grounds;
- 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
- 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.
Thousands of visas are revoked every year. Undoubtedly, the government is becoming much more proactive, intensifying its use of the visa revocation process. “Prudential revocation” of visas, in particular, is becoming more and more frequent.
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by hand or stamp the word Cancelled or Revoked; notify — or should notify — the person on what legal grounds the visa was revoked; make an entry into the visa system; and complete a Certificate of Revocation of Visa.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 after he submits a new DS-160 visa application and appears at a subsequent interview with 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 after the incident — 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 usually this revocation does not impact his status in the United States — he does not need to depart immediately. In such cases only if an immigration judge makes a decision to remove would his lawful status be terminated. However, attempts to change, extend, or adjust status in the United States might be denied by USCIS because of the revocation, leading to unlawful status.
Specific Reasons for Visa Revocation
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.
Other revocations are more common. A person denied an immigrant visa may have his nonimmigrant visa cancelled because she is considered a potential immigrant. A refused student visa applicant may have his visitor visa annulled because he expressed an intention to study in the US, an intention inconsistent with a visitor visa. A child’s visa may be revoked if a parent’s visa is revoked. A spouse’s visa may be revoked if her husband is spending “too much time” in the US as a tourist, in the opinion of the consular officer. Customs and Border Protection officials often revoke visas because of a misrepresentation or because it is the “wrong” visa (e.g., a visitor’s visa instead of an employment visa). CBP has access to information included in visa application forms and can easily find discrepancies in indicated intentions and actual plans.
Policy changes at a consular post or sheer politics can also lead to visa revocations — sometimes en masse. Officials or businessmen connected with an unfriendly government can have their visas revoked. Family members or individuals associated with an alleged criminal — even if deceased — may also encounter visa denials and revocations. The Trump Administration’s “Muslim Ban” led to more than 60,000 visa revocations alone.
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. Sometimes, a case for receiving a new visa is straightforward; for example dismissed charges alone cannot serve as the basis for a denial of a visa. However, a consular officer might invoke 214(b) against visitors and students in such situations. Other cases are much more complicated. If you are in the United States, we can consult you on the best course of action. Please contact us to discuss your situation in more detail.