Data has been released recently which shows that immigrants and temporary visa applicants were much more likely to be denied a visa because of Trump administration visa policies. “Extreme vetting,” the Buy American and Hire American executive order and changes to “public charge” ineligibility in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) have left more potential immigrants, travelers and others unable to enter America.
Analysis of new data released by the U.S. Department of State shows “Ineligibility findings used by the State Department to refuse visa applicants increased 39% for immigrants and 5% for nonimmigrants (individuals seeking temporary visas) between FY 2017 and FY 2018,” according to a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy. The number of temporary visas issued declined 7% from FY 2017 to FY 2018, while the number of immigrant (permanent resident) visas issued fell 5% during the same period.
More and more aspiring immigrants, especially from Mexico, are being denied visas based on determinations by the U.S. State Department that they might become “public charges,” dependent on the government for support, according to official data. Many consular officers are denying visas even when applicants fulfill legal requirements to prove they will be financially independent. The refusals can hold people for months or longer outside the United States, separated from American spouses and children, as they renew their efforts to legally return. Some may never be able to go back. One reason for the rise in refusals are little-known changes last year in the State Department’s foreign affairs manual that gave diplomats wider discretion in deciding visa denials on public-charge grounds. The changes occurred in January 2018 as the Department of Homeland Security was preparing a separate proposal to restrict immigration on public-charge grounds. The regulation, officially proposed in October, received more than 200,000 public comments, which will likely take months longer to fully evaluate.
Mexicans received 11 percent fewer immigrant visas in fiscal year 2018 compared to 2017. That compares to a 4.6 percent overall decline in such visas to people of all nationalities during that period. Previously, the State Department typically considered an “affidavit of support,” signed by an American citizen or permanent resident offering to act as a sponsor of the immigrant, sufficient evidence that the person would not become a government burden, immigration lawyers said. To qualify as a sponsor, a person must make at least 125 percent of the U.S. poverty level for that person’s household size. Now, according to the manual, the affidavit is just one factor among many. Consular officers are also now allowed to consider past or current use of public benefits – including health and nutrition services. And that includes use by an immigrant’s family, even if they are citizens.
Please contact our office for the best strategies on how to navigate the current landscape as it has become more stringent and difficult to obtain many Visas than in prior years.