@StateDept Revises Downward Its Consular Revenue Forecasts

Posted: 1:52 am ET

 

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal discusses Consular Affairs:

The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) supports U.S. national security objectives by protecting the interests of U.S. citizens overseas, strengthening border security, and facilitating legitimate travel to the United States. CA provides routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens overseas, adjudicates U.S. passport and visa applications, and undertakes fraud prevention and detection efforts. Together with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Intelligence Community, the Department of the Treasury, and the Law Enforcement Community, the Department has built a layered visa and border security screening system that rests on training, technological advances, biometric innovations, and expanded data sharing.

Revenue from Department-retained consular fees and surcharges funds CBSP activities. The fees and surcharges collected and retained for consular services include: Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) surcharges, Passport Security surcharges, Immigrant Visa (IV) Security surcharges, Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery fees, Fraud Prevention and Detection (H&L) fees, and Affidavit of Support (AoS) Review fees. Each consular fee or surcharge is used to fund CBSP programs and activities consistent with the applicable statutory authority.

We understand that since the beginning of FY 2013, the Consular and Border Security programs (CBSP) was completely funded using consular fees collected and retained by CA, that is, congressionally appropriated funds were not used for CA operations.

Consular Affairs charges user fees for many of the consular services it provides to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, including fees for services associated with passport issuance and non-immigrant visa processing/issuance. Congress permits the State Department to collect and retain revenue generated from certain consular fees, but the bureau is required by law to remit other amounts collected for consular fees to the Department of the Treasury. The retained consular fees are used to fund the Consular and Border Security Program (CBSP).

Consular and Border Security Programs

During FY 2014, the State Department collected $3.7 billion in consular fees. The revenue is generated primarily from the issuance of 467,370 immigrant visas and 9,932,480 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards. Note that the State Department only releases its visa issuance number and does not provide a public accounting of the total number of visa applicants. Visa processing fees are collected from all applicants (with few exceptions), and visa issuance fees are collected from certain countries based on reciprocity. (PDF)

In FY 2015, the Department collected $4.1 billion in consular fees that came from immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants including 531,463 immigrant (permanent) visas issuance and 10,891,745 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards issuance. FY2015 is the first time, nonimmigrant visa issuances hit the 10 million mark. (PDF)

We should point out that the consular revenue came from many different fees that cover a variety of services, like fraud prevention fees that are charged to particular visa applicants to fees charged to American citizens for expedited processing of passports. Consular revenue also includes surcharges that are imposed on some services. According to State/OIG, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee includes a legislatively imposed $2 surcharge to support programs to combat human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Trends

For the last several years until 2016, there had been an upward trend in visa demands. In 2012, the USG recognized the growth of foreign visitors from emerging economies with growing middle classes in China, Brazil and India. Then President Obama tasked the Department with increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012; and ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application (see Visa Hot Love for China and Brazil, Why No Hot Love for Mexico?).

For immigrant visas, the  issuance trend went down in FY2014, then went up in FY2015 and FY2016. In FY2017,  the issuance went down by over 58K. We don’t know at this time what function, if any, or how much, the Trump travel ban contributed to the decrease.

For nonimmigrant visas, the upward trend continued from FY2013-FY2015, then started dipping in FY2016. The decrease in number of nonimmigrant visa issuances continued in FY2017. The chart below also indicates a decrease of over 32,000 in border crossing card issuances in FY2017. To get a sense of what this means in direct U.S. dollars, check the consular fees here for visa services.

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal recognizes what could be a trend, telling Congress that “Due to new decreased revenue forecasts, the spending plans for FY 2018 have been revised downward from the FY2018 Request. Decreased spending is anticipated within the Bureau of Consular Affairs, partner bureaus, and other support activities.”

The Trump Administration has now submitted two budget proposals to Congress that include deep cuts to the State Department and USAID’s budgets. We have no reason to believe that its proposals for FY2020 and FY2021 would look anything different. But if what we’re seeing in consular workload is the start of a downward trend in revenue, the State Department could be in for a double whammy.

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Ex-FSO Michael Sestak Released From Prison on January 4, 2018

Posted: 2:33  am ET

 

In August 2015, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Michael T. Sestak, 44, was sentenced to 64 months in prison on federal charges in a scheme where he accepted more than $3 million in bribes to process visas for non-immigrants seeking entry to the United States. The Federal Bureau of Prisons locator indicates that he was scheduled to be released from prison on January 4, 2018. The 2015 USDOJ announcement notes that following his prison term, Sestak will be placed on three years of supervised release.

See this piece on the Sestak case. See below our posts on this case with some unanswered questions.

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Avoidable Mess: U.S. to Help Chad After “Important Partner” Withdraws Troops From Niger Following Visa Sanctions

Posted: 3:33 am ET
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On September 24, President Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries, including Chad. See Trump Announces New Visa Restrictions For Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia:.

Chad – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorists, the government in Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, and several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.

Via BuzzFeed: Experts from the State Department to humanitarian organizations were stunned when the Chad was added to the travel ban in late September. The country is home to a US military facility and just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with the US military’s Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents. Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, is the headquarters of the five-country Multinational Joint Task Force battling Boko Haram.

What kind of visa numbers do we have for Chad? For temporary nonimmigrant visas the last five fiscal years, see below via travel.state.gov:

FY2016: 1,355 | FY2015: 1,352 | FY2014: 1,294 |  FY2013: 731 |  FY2012: 624

So given Chad’s counterterrorism cooperation, and the carved out already given to Iraq in the September 24 order, why was Chad included in the visa restrictions?  FP proposes this:

One possible explanation for this discrepancy, which would be preposterous in any administration except this one, is that the architects of the ban, having repeatedly heard the phrases “Boko Haram” and “Lake Chad” in the same sentence, assumed that Chad must be the epicenter of Boko Haram. (Lake Chad in fact lies on the border of Chad and three other countries, and Boko Haram is mostly confined to northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and southeastern Niger.)
[…]
In the wake of the new travel ban announcement on Sept. 24, Chad has withdrawn hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. The Chadian government has not yet offered an official explanation for the pullout, but Communications Minister Madeleine Alingué condemned Chad’s inclusion on the travel ban, saying that it “seriously undermines” the “good relations between the two countries, notably in the fight against terrorism.”
[…]
The Chadian president is likely betting that with his forces withdrawn from Niger, the Trump administration will quickly come to appreciate his country’s security contributions and remove it from the list.

But it turns out — Chad had simply run out of passport paper!

AP’s Josh Lederman writes that Chad lacked the passport paper and offered to furnish the U.S. with a pre-existing sample of the same type of passport, but it was not enough to persuade DHS.  A congressional official told the AP that DHS working with the White House “pushed Chad onto the list without significant input from the State Department or the Defense Department.” 

Without significant input from agencies with people on the ground in Chad. If we were in Chad’s shoes, wouldn’t we do exactly the same? Obviously, being called an “important partner” does not make up for having your citizens banned from traveling to the other country. The action telegraphed careless disregard of the relationship, and Chad most likely, will not forget this easily. “Remember that time when the U.S. put Chad on the visa sanctions list while we have 2,000 soldiers fighting in Niger?” Yep, they’ll remember. We actually would like to know who among the local contacts showed up for the new embassy dedication, by the way (see @StateDept Dedicates New $225M U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad).

The DHS/WH architects of these visa bans/sanctions really are the best people with the best brains, hey?

Federal court has now issued a TRO for the latest travel restrictions that includes Chad. So basically, a carefully constructed bilateral relationship ends up in a mess, and it was all for nothing.

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@StateDept Cancels Ongoing #DiversityVisa Registration, Launches New Registration Oct.18-Nov.22

Posted: 3:14 pm PT
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On October 12, we blogged that the diversity visa website (https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/) has been down for maintenance since at least Sunday, October 8 (see Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Opens 10/3-11/7 – Site Now Down For Maintenance!). The Bureau of Consular Affairs which runs the program has now put up a new announcement:

With the exception of the notice posted on https://www.dvlottery.state.gov there are no FAQs on the website.  The US Embassy in Ecuador, however, helpfully posted the following FAQ:

Q: What can you tell us about the technical issue? Were entries lost? Was this a hacking attempt?
The technical issue was a failure to properly account for country of eligibility if the entrant was selecting a country of eligibility other than his/her place of birth, which is permitted in certain limited circumstances. This was not a result of any outside interference or hacking attempt.

Q: How many entries had been received before this technical issue?
Due to technical issues, we are unable to reliably estimate how many valid entries were received at this time. In order to protect the integrity of the process and ensure a fair opportunity to all entrants, we are restarting the entry period now.

Q: How many DV entries does the Department expect for DV-2019?
In DV-2018, the last year for which numbers are available, we received more than 14 million entries from principal applicants.

Q: How will the Department notify applicants whose entries are not valid? 

The Department will send an automated email notification to each Diversity Visa entrant from whom an entry was received before October 18, 2017, using the email address provided on the lottery entry form, directing the entrant to check the website dvlottery.state.gov for an important announcement.  We will also work through our embassies and consulates to inform potential entrants of the situation and new registration period using social media and local media outlets.

Since this program, presumably was the same program used in last year’s lottery, why would the “technical issue” that failed “to properly account for country of eligibility if the entrant was selecting a country of eligibility other than his/her place of birth” only surface now?  Did CA switched contractor between last year and this year’s lottery roll out? Did contractor perform system programming change after the last lottery but before the current one opened on October 3, 2017?

What we don’t understand is if this is a technical issue now, why was this not a technical issue last year if they’re using the same program?

This is not the first time that a “technical issue” happened with diversity visa lottery program.

We were reminded recently that the May 2015 DV lottery site crashed when people were trying to check lottery results. But the really big one happened much earlier in 2011 when Consular Affairs ran the FY2012 lottery, and it turned out the lottery results were not even random, so CA had to nullify the visa lottery results and ran the lottery again.  The nullification resulted in a lawsuit against the Department of State. That lawsuit was eventually dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on July 14, 2011.

The State/OIG did review that FY2012 DV debacle, and since we’re not clear how the current technical issue occurred, we’ll revisit the 2011 case:

The OIG team found three problems that led to this failure, all of which stem from the lack of adherence to sound project management and systems development principles. First, CA’s Office of Consular Systems and Technology (CST) implemented a system programming change without performing adequate testing. Second, CST changed contract task orders without notifying the Office of Acquisition Management (AQM). Third, CST management failed to adequately discuss the changes with all stakeholders and thus did not fully understand how overseas consular officers administer the DV program.

Also this:

The primary reason for the DV 2012 program failure was that CST did not adequately test the new computer program for the random selection of potential DV program participants. Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended,3 limits the number of DVs that may be available by both region and country. Therefore, 22 CFR § 42.33(c) requires that selection be based on random rank-ordering of participants by region through a computer program designed for this purpose. When participants submit their records, the computer program assigns a sequential number to each record based on the participant’s region. Subsequently, the selection process uses the sequential numbers to randomly rank-order the participants’ records. CST management decided in November 2010 not to use the commercial off—the—shelf statistics analysis program that it had used successfully for random rank—ordering in numerous previous years. Instead, CST management asked one of its contractors to develop a program. This new computer program had a coding error that produced a nonrandom rank-ordering and thus failed to meet INA requirements. The program not only selected 98 percent of the applicants from the first two dates of the allowed submission dates, it also selected multiple individuals from the same families.

According to CST management and the contractor staff who developed the new DV computer program, testing scenarios were limited to validating that all geographic regions were assigned the correct numerical limitation and that the total number of selectees to be drawn was accurate. In addition, the development, testing, and production implementation of the program were done exclusively by one contracting company that, due to poor planning and failure to consult with all DV stakeholders, did not have adequate information to create a complete test plan for the computer program. Key stakeholders such as CST’s independent validation and verification team, the Visa Office, and the contractor that operated and managed the legacy computer program were not involved in planning and implementing the new computer program.
[…]
Principals in the Visa Office were not aware that changes had been made to the computer program until after it failed and the results had to be voided. CST management further stated that it is not clear to them which office is responsible for administering the DV program.

Read the full report here: https://oig.state.gov/system/files/176330.pdf.

So again, did the Consular Affairs contractor perform system programming changes after last year’s lottery but before the current one opened on the 3rd of October?

If that did not happen, and CA is using the same system, how did CA principals become aware that the system is failing “to properly account for country of eligibility if the entrant was selecting a country of eligibility other than his/her place of birth?”

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Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Opens 10/3-11/7 – Site Now Down For Maintenance!

Posted: 1:41 pm PT
Updated: 2:02 pm PT
Updated: October 13, 5:15 pm PT
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The annual Diversity Visa Lottery registration period opened October 3, 2017 and closes on November 7, 2017. We understand that the registration site (https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/) has been down since at least Sunday. Today the site has a “Down for Maintenance” banner. The question we’ve been asked: The State Department has 45 weeks a year to get the site ready for the five week registration period. Now it’s down for maintenance, what’s going on? We’ve asked. We will update if we hear anything back.

Update#1:
We understand that this could be a technical issue, but we have yet to hear an official response to our inquiry or a public statement from the State Department.

Update#2: A State Department official speaking on background told us “There is a technical problem requiring maintenance and the site will be brought back up as soon as possible.” When asked about the specifics of the technical problem or the time frame when they expect the issue resolved, the official declined to provide additional details. 

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U.S. Mission Turkey Representatives, Lawyer Not Allowed to See Jailed Turkish Employee

Posted: 4:15 am ET
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We recently blogged about the arrest of U.S. Mission Turkey’s local employee in Istanbul (see Turkey Arrests U.S.Consulate General Istanbul Local Employee Metin Topuz on “Terror Charges”U.S. Mission Turkey Suspends All Non-Immigrant Visa Services Over Latest Arrest of Local Employee

Note that there are no cancellation of visas, and this is not a visa ban, but this is clearly, a specific action taken by the U.S. Government over the Turkish Government’s treatment of U.S. Mission employees in Turkey.

The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass released a fuller statement on the suspension of visa services (see below). Ambassador Bass notes that this is the second arrest of a Turkish staff member of U.S. Mission Turkey. Both employees arrested have worked for the U.S. Government at U.S. Mission Turkey for over 30 years.

Last week, for the second time this year, a Turkish staff member of our diplomatic mission was arrested by Turkish authorities.  Despite our best efforts to learn the reasons for this arrest, we have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee.  The employee works in an office devoted to strengthening law enforcement cooperation with Turkish authorities and ensuring the security of Americans and Turkish citizens.  Furthermore our colleague has not been allowed sufficient access to his attorney.

Ambassador Bass also points out that the local employee was doing his job for the diplomatic post:

Let me be clear: strengthening law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Turkey was the employee’s job.  Speaking to and traveling with Turkish police was a part of his regular duties and the Turkish government has not shared any information to indicate the employee was involved in any illegal activity.  

We understand that the U.S. Government has provided attorneys for the jailed employee in Adana, as well as the jailed employee in Istanbul but access has been problematic. A source speaking on background confirmed to us that the U.S. Government has asked for the release of these employees and that the Government of Turkey’s response has been “we’ll look into it.”  The U.S. Government has also requested to see Metin Bey in Istanbul but was not allowed to see him.

Under Turkey’s “state of emergency”, U.S. Mission employees do not have proper access to counsel and they aren’t informed of charges or evidence against them. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first announced that Turkey will be placed under a “state of emergency” for three months, in response to the failed coup in mid 2016. Al Jazeera notes that Turkey’s last “state of emergency” was imposed in the country’s southeast region for the fight against Kurdish armed groups in 1987 and only lifted in 2002. It also points out that “under a state of emergency in Turkey, the president can largely rule by decree.”  On October 6, the Council of Europe has called on Turkey to ease post-coup state of emergency laws that have seen thousands arrested and to restore power to regional authorities.

Turkey Seeking a Third Employee?

In related news, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported on Monday that an “unnamed U.S. Consulate employee has been summoned to testify as a suspect” citing the Chief Prosecutor’s Office” in Istanbul: “An employee at the U.S. Consulate Istanbul, N.M.C., who does not have diplomatic immunity, has been summoned to our chief public prosecutor’s office [in Istanbul] for his testimony.” According to the report, the statement released also says that the employee’s “child and wife have been detained on terror charges in Amasya, a city in the Black Sea region.” Elsewhere, local media reports also say that this unnamed employee has not left the Consulate.

Despite wide reporting concerning this third employee, the Government of Turkey has apparently told the U.S. Government that there is no warrant (yet) for the third employee. A source familiar with the matter told us that it is not true that the employee has not left the Consulate or that he is staying at the Consulate.

But let that sink in. They’re holding the employee’s wife and child on terror charges. What’s to keep the Turkish Government from holding as hostages the family members of any or all local employees in Turkey, so those employees would voluntarily surrender without charges, without lawyers, just to keep their families safe?

Dual Turk-American Citizens

There are also multiple Americans jailed in Turkey after the failed coup attempt (see Americans Jailed After Failed Coup in Turkey Are Hostages to Politics): We understand that American Consular Officers have been given access to Americans in jail but not if the individuals are dual nationals. Apparently, the Government of Turkey has told the U.S. Government that if the jailed individuals are dual Turk-Americans, that the United States has no right to see them.

Okay — So Why the Why?

Folks are not sure if Turkey is playing hardball because of Fethullah Gulen (based in the U.S.), accused by Ankara of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt,  or because of Reza Zharab, an Iranian-Turkish citizen arrested for conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, money laundering, and bank fraud, a case that allegedly implicates certain officials including a former Turkish Minister of  the Economy, and a former general manager of a Turkish Government-owned bank. It’s worth noting that the Zharab case has expanded to include nine defendants, and is scheduled to begin trial on October 30 before Judge Berman in the Southern District of New York. The prosecution of the Zharab/Zarrab case is being handled by the Southern District of New York’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Yo! And that Consulate employee Turkey arrested in Istanbul works for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

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U.S. Mission Turkey Suspends All Non-Immigrant Visa Services Over Latest Arrest of Local Employee

Posted: 2:01 am ET
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On October 8, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced the suspension of all temporary visa services for the embassy and consulates in Turkey. The statement says that “recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel.” This development follows the arrest of U.S. Consulate General’s Metin Topuz, a locally hired employee in Istanbul this past week (see Turkey Arrests U.S.Consulate General Istanbul Local Employee Metin Topuz on “Terror Charges”). There was also the prior arrest of the U.S. Consulate Adana local employee Hamza Uluçay, arrested in March on charges of “being a member of a terror organization” and who remains in jail to this day.

Hamza Uluçay has worked for the U.S. Consulate in Adana for 36 years, and according to Hurriyet Daily News was arrested as he left the consulate building for “allegedly attempting to direct the public to provocative activities in the southeastern province of Mardin.” Back in March, Hamsa Bey was reportedly referred to a local court in Mardin’s Kızıltepe district but he was later released on probation. The prosecutor objected to the release and he was detained for the second time on charges of “being a member of a terror organization.”  According to Hurriyet, the searches at Hamsa Bey’s residence includes seizure of $21 U.S. dollars with B, C, D, F, G, K and L series on them.

An AP report in April 2016 previously notes that Turkish  authorities are citing U.S. banknotes, specifically $1 bills as evidence that people are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag reportedly told the A Haber television channel, “There is no doubt that this $1 bill has some important function within the Gulenist terror organization.” The AP report citing the Aksam daily, says that one theory is that F designates a high-ranking soldier or police chief; J and C represent low-ranking soldiers; E and S are for instructors and academics in Gulenist schools and B is for students.

In July,  Henri J. Barket wrote about Hamsa Bey in The Atlantic’s Erdogan’s Anti-Westernism Picks Up Speed:

One particularly absurd case is that of Hamza Uluçay, a 37-year employee of the U.S. consulate in Adana, who was picked up on “terrorism” charges. He is a foreign service national, a local hire who helps U.S. diplomats arrange meetings and navigate the local political and social scene. I have known Hamza for 25 years—I first met him in the 1990s in Adana during a research trip. When I saw him last in March 2016, I joked with him that he ought to never retire because Consulate Adana, notwithstanding his American colleagues, could not function without him. These audacious charges amount to nothing less than sticking a thumb in America’s eye.

Local employees including those in small posts like Adana provide not only bridges with local host country nationals and officials, they also provide continuity for posts so our diplomats are able to do their jobs. The U.S. Consulate in Adana covers a consular district that encompasses 22 provinces, including Turkey’s borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. Its district includes the major cities of Mersin, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, and Van that have large Kurdish population. One diplomat told us that “Hamza Bey in Adana is one of our finest.” Local employees do not freelance, or go rogue; the calls and contacts they make in their own countries are connected to their jobs, and are done on behalf of their American supervisors, and consequently, on behalf of the United States. Unlike American diplomats who have diplomatic and consular immunity (PDF), local employees do not have such privileges and immunities.

The second, and latest local employee arrested by Turkish authorities is Metin Topuz “on charges of espionage and links to FETÖ, the group blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people in Turkey.” According to the Daily Sabah, a Turkish pro-government daily, the indictment for Metin Bey includes “contact with a number of police chiefs in Istanbul where he worked” and all those police chiefs involved in the 2013 coup attempts were FETÖ members in the judiciary and law enforcement.” The indictment reportedly also charged that he is a liaison between members of FETÖ and its leader, Fetullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania.”

The Daily Sabah previously reported this arrest as “US consulate linked to another alleged FETÖ conspiracy.” The newspaper citing a report by the Akşam newspaper says that “M.T. assisted FETÖ-linked police chiefs in handing over documents regarding the 2013 police operations to Preet Bharara, a former New York attorney who conducted an investigation into Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish national who is being held in the U.S. three years after being included in a 2013 probe involving people close to the government in Turkey.”

We understand that Metin Bey works for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Istanbul. Contacts with members of the local judiciary or law enforcement would certainly be part of his job, a fact lost on the Government of Turkey.  Turkey watchers notice that government-affiliated press is ramping things up. U.S. Mission Turkey’s October 5 made reference to leaks, and an attempt to try Metin Bey in the media rather than in the court of law.

It is probably not an accident that the local employees arrested are long-term employees of the U.S. Mission in Turkey. The question is if this is now open season for all Turkish nationals working for the United States in Turkey. If the Turkish Government can go after employees at the U.S. consulates, how long before they’re going to go after the Turkish nationals working for the U.S. Military in Turkey?

According to turkeypurge.com which monitors President Erdogan’s purges since July 15, 2016, our NATO-ally Turkey has now arrested over 60,000 individuals, detained over 127,000 people, arrested over 300 journalists, shut down 187 media outlets, and sacked over 146,000 state officials, teachers, bureaucrats, and academics who were dismissed by government decrees.

And now this — Turkey’s MFA copy/pasted the official USG statement, and has now issued a reciprocal suspension of visa services at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the United States. It addition to its embassy, Turkey has seven consulates in the U.S.: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

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Visa Holders Who Violate #90DayRule May be Presumed to be of “Material Misrepresentation”

Posted: 4:44 am ET
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On September 26, the State Department updated its FAM guidance on INELIGIBILITY BASED ON ILLEGAL ENTRY, MISREPRESENTATION AND OTHER IMMIGRATION VIOLATIONS – INA 212(A)(6)

INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) provides an alien who seeks to procure, or has sought to procure, or has procured a visa, other documentation, or entry into the United States or other benefit provided under the INA by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact at any time shall be ineligible for a visa.

9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(2) notes that “most cases of inadmissibility under this section will involve “material misrepresentations” rather than “fraud” since actual proof of an alien’s intent to deceive may be hard to come by.  As a result, the Notes in this section will deal principally with the interpretation of “material misrepresentation.”

The guidance tells consular adjudicators that “To conclude there was a misrepresentation, you must have direct or circumstantial evidence sufficient to meet the “reason to believe” standard, which requires more than mere suspicion but less than a preponderance of the evidence.”

On September 16, 2017 the State Department sent 17 STATE 95090 on the Change to INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) and Introduction of 90 Day Rule

1. SUMMARY: This cable advises posts on the application of INA section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) as it pertains to revised guidance at 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g-h) regarding the 90 day rule, formerly known as the “30/60 day rule.” Interagency working groups agreed to a change in policy and expanded the 30/60 day timeframe to 90 days for aliens who enter the United States and engage in activity inconsistent with their nonimmigrant status before procuring a change or adjustment of status. END SUMMARY.

The 90 day rule

2. The following revised guidance replaces the 30/60 day rule and applies to all adjudications that occur after September 1. The guidance should not be applied retroactively. As detailed in the revisions to 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g-h), aliens who violate or engage in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status within 90 days of entry into the United States by:

1) engaging in unauthorized employment;
2) enrolling in a course of unauthorized academic study;
3) marrying a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and taking up residence in the United States while in a nonimmigrant visa classification that prohibits immigrant intent; or
4) undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or adjustment of status would be required prior to obtaining such change or adjustment, may be presumed to have made a material misrepresentation.

You must give the alien the opportunity to present evidence to rebut the presumption that he or she made a willful misrepresentation on prior visa applications or in their applications for admission to the United States before you can find the applicant ineligible under 212(a)(6)(C)(i). If the applicant is unable to overcome the presumption that he or she engaged in a willful misrepresentation, post must request an Advisory Opinion (AO) from the Visa Office of Advisory Opinions (CA/VO/L/A) per 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(h)(2)(b).

3. If an alien violates or engages in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status after 90 days of entry into the United States, there generally is no presumption of willful misrepresentation. However, if facts in the case give you a reason to believe that the alien misrepresented his or her purpose of travel at the time of the visa application or application for admission, you must request an AO from CA/VO/L/A.

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Trump Announces New Visa Restrictions For Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia

Posted: 12:17 am ET
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President Trump issued E.O. 13780 on March 6 (Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States). It revoked the January 27 order, and reissued the ban for the same six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with Iraq excepted (see Trump Revokes Travel Ban EO, Reissues New Executive Order For Six Muslim Countries Minus Iraq).

As we’ve pointed out previously here, there’s something in EO 13780 that did not get as much attention as the travel ban.  Section 2 (a) and (b) of the E.O. requires the review of immigration-related information sharing by foreign governments.

Sec. 2.  Temporary Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern During Review Period.  (a)  The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall conduct a worldwide review to identify whether, and if so what, additional information will be needed from each foreign country to adjudicate an application by a national of that country for a visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual is not a security or public-safety threat.  The Secretary of Homeland Security may conclude that certain information is needed from particular countries even if it is not needed from every country.

(b)  The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the worldwide review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed from each country for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 20 days of the effective date of this order.  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence.

The report required under Section 2(b) was reportedly submitted in mid-July to the President. The State Department subsequently sent a guidance cable to all posts worldwide to help foreign governments understand the requirements and how they can start meeting them. We understand that posts were told to request a response from their host government counterparts to enable them to respond to the State Department by July 21.

On September 24, President Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries. The announcement cites Section 2 of Executive Order 13780 — “if foreign countries do not meet the United States Government’s traveler vetting and information sharing requirements, their nationals may not be allowed to enter the United States or may face other travel restrictions, with certain exceptions.” Below are the country-specific restrictions per Fact Sheet: Proclamation on Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats:

Country-Specific Travel Restrictions:

  • The United States maintained, modified, or eased restriction on 5 of 6 countries currently designated by Executive Order 13780. Those countries are Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia.
  • The United States lifted restrictions on 1 of 6 countries currently designated by Executive Order 13780: Sudan.
  • The United States added restrictions and/or additional vetting on 3 additional countries found to not meet baseline requirements, but that were not included in Executive Order 13780. These countries are: Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.
  • The country specific restrictions are as follows:

Chad – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorists, the government in Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, and several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.

Iran – The government in Iran regularly fails to cooperate with the United States Government in identifying security risks; is the source of significant terrorist threats; is state sponsor of terrorism; and fails to receive its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Iran as immigrants and as nonimmigrants is suspended, except that entry by nationals of Iran under valid student (F and M) and exchange visitor (J) visas is not suspended, although such individuals will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.

Libya – Although it is an important partner, especially in the area of counterterrorism, the government in Libya faces significant challenges in sharing several types of information, including public-safety and terrorism-related information; has significant inadequacies in its identity-management protocols; has been assessed to be not fully cooperative with respect to receiving its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States; and has a substantial terrorist presence within its territory. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Libya, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.

North Korea – The government in North Korea does not cooperate with the United States Government in any respect and fails to satisfy all information-sharing requirements. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of North Korea as immigrants and nonimmigrants is suspended.

Somalia – Although it satisfies minimum U.S. information-sharing requirements, the government in Somalia still has significant identity-management deficiencies; is recognized as a terrorist safe haven; remains a destination for individuals attempting to join terrorist groups that threaten the national security of the United States; and struggles to govern its territory and to limit terrorists’ freedom of movement, access to resources, and capacity to operate. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Somalia as immigrants is suspended, and nonimmigrants traveling to the United States will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.

Syria – The government in Syria regularly fails to cooperate with the U.S. Government in identifying security risks; is the source of significant terrorist threats; has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism; has significant inadequacies in identity-management protocols; and fails to share public-safety and terrorism information. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Syria as immigrants and nonimmigrants is suspended.

Venezuela – The government in Venezuela is uncooperative in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public-safety threats; fails to share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately; and has been assessed to be not fully cooperative with respect to receiving its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas is suspended.

Yemen – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorism, the government in Yemen faces significant identity-management challenges, which are amplified by the notable terrorist presence within its territory; fails to satisfy critical identity-management requirements; and does not share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Yemen as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.

IRAQ: The Secretary of Homeland Security also assesses Iraq as inadequate according to the baseline criteria, but has determined that entry restrictions and limitations under a Presidential proclamation are not warranted because of the close cooperative relationship between the United States and the democratically elected government of Iraq, the strong United States diplomatic presence in Iraq, the significant presence of United States forces in Iraq, and Iraq’s commitment to combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Secretary recommends, however, that nationals of Iraq who seek to enter the United States be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if they pose risks to the national security or public safety of the United States.

The FAQ notes that these restrictions and limitations took effect at 3:30 p.m. eastern daylight time on September 24, 2017, for foreign nationals “who were subject to the suspension of entry under section 2 of E.O. 13780, and who lack a credible claim of a bonda fide relationship with a person or entity of the United States.” The restrictions and limitations take effect at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017, for all other foreign nationals subject to the suspension of entry under section 2 of E.O. 13780, and for nationals of Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.

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Related posts:

Current Visa Sanctions: Cambodia, Guinea, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Plus The Gambia #INA243(d)

Posted: 1:38 am ET
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We previously blogged about visa sanctions in January 2017 for countries who refused to accept their deported nationals (see On Invocation of Visa Sanctions For Countries Unwilling to Accept Their Deported Nationals. Also read @StateDept Notifies Foreign Countries of New Information Sharing Standards Required For U.S. Travel.

Note that the Trump Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States include section 12 on countries who refused to accepted their nationals who are subject to removal by the United States:

Sec. 12.  Recalcitrant Countries.  The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State shall cooperate to effectively implement the sanctions provided by section 243(d) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1253(d)), as appropriate.  The Secretary of State shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.

Read more: U.S. to Invoke Visa Sanctions For Four Countries Unwilling to Accept Deported Nationals

On September 12, the State Department released an update of its FAM guidance 9 FAM 601.12 on the “Discontinuation of Visa Issuance Under INA 243 (D).   Per 9 FAM 601.12-2(C), the following countries are currently subject to discontinuation of visa issuance under INA 243(d): Cambodia, The Gambia, Guinea, Eritrea, and Sierra Leone.

Kevin Brosnahan, the spokesperson for the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs released the following statement:

The Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia to implement visa restrictions effective September 13, 2017. The Secretary determined the categories of visa applicants subject to these restrictions on a country-by-country basis. Consular operations at the U.S. embassy will continue. These visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension.

The Department of State received notification under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act from the Department of Homeland Security for Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. According to that section of the law, when a country denies or unreasonably delays accepting one of its nationals, the Secretary of Homeland Security may notify the Secretary of State. The Secretary must then order consular officers in that country to discontinue issuance of any or all visas.   The Secretary determines the categories of applicants subject to the visa restrictions.

via travel.state.gov

Below are the four countries, in addition to The Gambia that are currently under visa sanctions/restrictions. With the exception of  Eritrea where the sanctions affect “Eritrean citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents,” the restrictions for the other countries are currently directed at government officials and their families.

CAMBODIA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia has discontinued issuing B1, B2, and B1/B2 visas for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families, with limited exceptions.

Under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, when so requested by the Secretary of Homeland Security due to a particular country’s refusal to accept or unreasonably delay the return of its nationals, the Secretary of State must order consular officers to suspend issuing visas until informed by the Secretary of Homeland Security that the country in question has accepted the individuals.

GUINEA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, the U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea has discontinued issuing B, F, J, and M visas to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members, with limited exceptions.

ERITREA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, 2017, the United States Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, under instructions from the Secretary of State, has discontinued the issuance of non immigrant visas for business or pleasure (B1/B2) to Eritrean citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents. The Department of State may make exceptions for travel that is in the U.S. national interest, for emergency or humanitarian travel, and other limited exceptions.

SIERRA LEONE (see full notice here)

On Wednesday, September 13, the United States Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone will discontinue the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials.

Consular operations at the U.S. embassy or consulate will continue.  These visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension.

THE GAMBIA (see announcement here)

The sanctions placed on The Gambia occurred last year. As of October 1, 2016, the United States Embassy in Banjul, The Gambia discontinued issuing visas to Gambian government officials, others associated with the government, and their families.  The announcement says that the Department may make exceptions for travel based on U.S. international obligations and to advance humanitarian and other U.S. government interests.

Per  FAM 601.12-3(C) (a) Public Notice of Discontinuation of Visa Issuance:  During the period of discontinuation, posts should continue receiving and adjudicating cases; however, posts should explain the discontinuation of visas to all applicants covered by the order.  The explanation should note that visas cannot generally be issued for certain visa classifications or categories of applicants as determined by the Secretary’s order, and explain that visa fees will not be refunded, but that the cases will be reviewed again once visa issuance resumes.  The notification may be provided by flyers posted in the consular section and/or on the post’s website.

All the above notices are posted under the “News/Events” section of the embassies’ websites, which is understandable, but that is also not the section that visa applicants would first look when searching for visa information. One post did not include the information on non-refundable fees.

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