Drunk Driving Arrests Result in Visa Revocations
February 16, 2016
The Murthy Law Firm receives a number of inquiries from foreign nationals whose visa foils (“stamps”) have been revoked by a U.S. consulate following a conviction, or even just an arrest, for driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or a related criminal charge. Revocation notifications from consulates sometimes may incorrectly claim the person’s status in the United States has been revoked. This practice, which is known as “prudential revocation,” is creating a variety of problems and uncertainty for stakeholders.
Typical Pattern of Visa Revocations
The typical pattern is that the person is in the United States, having entered lawfully based upon a nonimmigrant visa issued at a consulate abroad. The individual then has a DUI/DWI incident, leading to a prudential revocation of his/her visa stamp. In some instances, one receives an eMail from the visa-issuing consulate informing her/him that the visa stamp has been cancelled. The notification states that the foreign national must apply for a new visa the next time s/he travels abroad.
Per U.S. Department of State (DOS), the consulate is supposed to contact the individual and provide notice of the visa revocation. However, the revocation occurs even if the foreign national cannot be reached. In these instances, the foreign national may not be aware of the revocation until s/he leaves the United States and tries to reenter based on the facially valid visa.
Status Should Not be Disrupted
The prudential revocation of a visa stamp by the DOS should not disrupt the individual’s legal status in the United States. Rather, this should solely result in the inability to use the particular visa for reentry to the U.S. after foreign travel. Unlike visa issuance, which is controlled by the DOS, nonimmigrant status is determined at the port of entry by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and/or by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in connection with a change or extension of status.
January 22nd Meeting in Chennai
Sheela Murthy raised concerns over these assertions by consular officers of status violations during a January 22, 2016 meeting with Lindsey Rothenberg, the Chief of the Nonimmigrant Visa Section at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai, India, and the Vice Counsel, Brock D. Fox. Ms. Rothenberg confirmed that an individual’s status in the United States is not supposed to be impacted when a visa is prudentially revoked.
While this assurance is comforting, it is not the end of the story. It is not clear in any given case what notations are being entered in an individual’s record when the visa is revoked. If status revocation-related information is (wrongly) placed in the file during the visa revocation process, this has the potential of creating serious immigration problems for the foreign national. This is especially concerning for F-1 students, as attorneys in our firm have seen designated school officials (DSO) rely on consular communications indicating that the student is out of status and required to depart the United States immediately. This, in turn, may cause the DSO to believe that s/he should no longer issue the various approvals and recommendations needed by such a student to maintain valid status.
Murthy Team Contacts NAFSA to Notify DSOs
Attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm contacted NAFSA: Association of International Educators, a nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange, to alert its members to the potential status issues related to prudential revocation notices. NAFSA stated that, as of February 1, 2016, none of its member DSOs had reported encountering this problem. But, NAFSA is now aware of the matter and is in a position to guide and advise DSOs should such situations arise.
Travel Abroad Requires New Visa & Medical Screening
An individual in nonimmigrant status whose visa has been prudentially revoked will have to obtain a new visa in order to be readmitted to the United States following an overseas trip. In order for the visa to be issued, the foreign national will likely first need to be cleared by a panel physician following a medical screening. More information on alcohol-related medical screenings is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, DOS Policy on Visa Applicants with Drunk Driving Records (01.Oct.2012).
Note that such individuals are not eligible to waive the visa interview requirement.
The issues faced by individuals whose visas are prudentially revoked are an evolving matter. The Murthy Law Firm is available to assist any foreign national who has received communication regarding such a revocation. Our attorneys can also guide anyone with a history that includes an arrest related to a DUI or DWI regarding the immigration consequences and complications related to a visa application. Readers will be updated on any further significant developments in this area.