Recently announced changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) have altered the way U.S. Consular Officers’ issue validity periods for non-immigrant visas. Essentially, Consular Officers now have the ability to issue visas for a shorter duration than what might appear on a USCIS approval notice or what is “standard” for a given visa classification.
Under 9 FAM 403.9-4(B) (U) “Validity of Nonimmigrant Visas,” new language has been added which afford Consular Officers the discretion “to issue a nonimmigrant visa valid for a period, or provide a number of applications for admission (“entries”), less than that prescribed on the basis of reciprocity, if warranted in an individual case.” The new guidance elaborates that, “The fact that an application is made away from the alien’s normal place of residence is not, by itself, reason to limit visa validity below the standard set by reciprocity.”
While the new language above may seem on its face to be a clarification of existing processes, in practice it may result in inconsistent review from one consular officer to the next, or one consulate to the next. For example, if a consular officer feels that a visitor visa applicant will not continue to maintain non-immigrant intent, a visa that could be valid for up to 10 years under the reciprocity table, can now be issued for a far shorter period – such as a year or less.
The potential limitation of non-immigrant visas has long been a complicating factor for employers when seeking non-immigrant status on behalf of international employee. Adding these new provisions to the Foreign Affairs Manual may ultimately only further complicate this process.
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