Little noticed change in visa procedures leads to skyrocketing number of denials

For some foreign nationals seeking a visa to come to the U.S., a little noticed change in the State Department handbook for approving visa applications has led to their denial, even though the applicant appears to have met all legal criteria to enter the country.

The handbook change gave consular officers much wider latitude in the ability to deny an individual a visa.  As can be expected, some apparently worthy applicants have been denied entry to the U.S. 

But the change was necessary.  It had to do with determining whether or not a visa applicant would become a "public charge" and be a drain on government resources.


Lawyers for some immigrants say consular officers are denying visas even when applicants fulfill legal requirements to prove they will be financially independent.

The refusals, capping an often complex and lengthy application process, can trap 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, highly controversial 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.

Some critics say the State Department is using a back door, tightening immigration policy without going through a similarly high-profile rulemaking process.

"The State Department is trying to bypass public comment and implement changes to public-charge (policy) all on its own," said Charles Wheeler, an attorney with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.  "These changes are already having a terrible effect on people."

Every other nation on Earth denies visas to people who can't take care of themselves.  This is a no-brainer, and opposition to this change is inexplicable.  The bottom line is that not everyone should be allowed entry into the U.S., and we are well within our sovereign right to refuse to support the world's poor and desperate people.

Will some people who might be worthy of a visa be denied?  That's going to happen no matter how generous a system is put into place.  It's an old trick of activists to highlight the rare exceptions to a rule and deem it unfair. 

You can advocate for increased immigration and support a policy of no entrance to people who would go on the public dole.  There is nothing "racist" or even "anti-immigrant" about the policy.  It's simple common sense. 

And it's long overdue.

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