Live: U.S. Politics
MRN: 17 STATE 93408
Date/DTG: Sep 12, 2017 /120135Z SEP 17
From: SECSTATE WASHDC
Action: ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE ROUTINE
TAGS: CMGT, CVIS, DHS, KH, 2P, 2H, 2E
Reference: A) 17 STATE 9540
B) 17 STATE 26812
C) 16 PHNOM PENH 271
D) 16 PHNOM PENH1180
E) 17 STATE 93386
Subject: GUIDANCE ON THE SUSPENSION OF CERTAIN VISAS IN CAMBODIA
1. (U) Summary: Effective September 13, the United States will discontinue the issuance of nonimmigrant B visas for the personal travel of employees of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families who apply in Cambodia, because that country is denying or unreasonably delaying acceptance of the return of its citizens from the United States. Further visa categories may be designated by the Department at a later date. The suspension does not apply to Cambodians applying outside Cambodia, although posts encountering such applicants should consult the guidance in paragraphs 7-8 concerning out-of-district cases. The suspension also does not invalidate or serve as a basis for revocation of visas already issued. This cable provides background and guidance on the visa suspension. All public inquiries regarding visa issuance suspension in Cambodia should be directed to CA/P. All operational inquiries should go to CA/VO. End Summary.
2. (U) Despite repeated requests by the United States at the highest levels and over a long period, Cambodia has not cooperated in issuing travel documents to its putative nationals to facilitate their removal. On August 16, 2017, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke notified Secretary Tillerson that Cambodia has denied or unreasonably delayed the return of its nationals currently in ICE detention (Ref A). Therefore, pursuant to INA Section 243(d), Secretary Tillerson has ordered consular officers in Cambodia to discontinue granting B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas for the personal travel of employees of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the rank of Director General and above, and their immediate families.
3. (U) The U.S. government believes that every country has an obligation under international law to accept the return of its nationals who are ineligible to remain in the United States or any other country. The United States routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting its citizens when asked. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE) asks foreign governments to facilitate the return of their nationals by issuing valid travel documents and accepting the appropriate flights.
4. (SBU) ICE prioritizes the removal of aliens who pose a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety. The Department of State assists ICE through diplomatic engagement with foreign governments in Washington and at our embassies and consulates overseas. ICE designates as "Uncooperative" those countries that are uncooperative in taking back their nationals or issuing travel documents on time. ICE's Removals Cooperation Initiative (RCI) calculation includes 12 uncooperative countries and an additional 47 "At Risk of Non-Compliance" countries that have not cooperated completely. ICE recalculates this list periodically. The Department will share these lists with affected posts.
5. (SBU) For many years, State and ICE have worked with uncooperative countries at all levels to improve cooperation on removals. In many cases, diplomatic efforts are successful to address the problem. However, Cambodia was not responsive, causing the Secretary of Homeland Security to notify State, triggering the requirement to discontinue visa issuance. The Secretary of State has decided to initially target B1, B2, and B1/B2 visa applicants who are employees of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the rank of Director General and above, and their immediate families. The suspension may be expanded to include additional categories of visa applicants at a later time.
Operational Mechanics at Embassy Phnom Penh
6. (SBU) In accordance with an Order of the Secretary of State under section INA 243(d), consular officers at Embassy Phnom Penh will, starting September 13, 2017, discontinue the issuance of all B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas to employees of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the rank of Director General and above, and their immediate family. For the duration of the suspension, Embassy Phnom Penh will accept applications, interview, and refuse ineligible cases as usual (e.g. under INA 214(b) or INA 212(a), etc.). For purposes of processing and tracking, consular officers there will refuse in NIV, under refusal code "243(d)," all visas considered approvable but for the visa suspension. Embassy Phnom Penh will submit visa applications possibly falling within one of the exceptions in the Secretary's order, to the Department for an Advisory Opinion.
Cambodian Applicants Applying Outside Cambodia
7. (SBU) 9 FAM 601.12-3(E) precludes you from accepting the applications of designated nationals of 243(d) countries if the applicant is not a resident of your consular district. Posts should note that INA 243(d) applies only to visa issuance in Cambodia; therefore, B visa applications from the specific categories of Cambodians described in the paragraphs above could still be issued in another country in limited circumstances. 9 FAM 403.2-4(B) states that the authority to reject an applicant based solely on non-residence "will seldom, if ever, be used”. If a covered individual who is not a resident of their consular district is not eligible for a visa, then consular officers outside Cambodia should refuse under INA 214(b), INA 212(a), or the other relevant refusal code as in any other adjudication. If such an applicant is otherwise eligible but appears to be applying outside of Cambodia to avoid the visa suspension, officers outside Cambodia must transfer the case to Embassy Phnom Penh.
How to Refuse Out of District Cases in NIV
8. (SBU) Consular officers who believe applicants are seeking to avoid the visa suspension in Cambodia should use the "case transfer" function in NIV 4.10 in "Open" status and transfer the
case to Embassy Phnom Penh. Although the transfer function permits you to deny cases under INA 221(g) prior to transfer, do not select that option; transfer the case in "Open" status.
Exceptions to Sanctions
9. (SBU) Under the Secretary's order, some applicants in Cambodia who are covered individuals may still be issued visas for travel deemed by the Department to be for a humanitarian or other emergency purpose, or travel otherwise deemed in the interests of the United States. Consular officers should refuse each case under INA 243 (d) then submit an advisory opinion to [email removed] for each case that the adjudicating consular officer believes may fall within one of the exceptions.
Termination of Sanctions
10. (U) When the Secretary of Homeland Security has informed the Secretary of State that Government of Cambodia has accepted its nationals subject to removal orders, the restrictions will be lifted. The Department will inform all posts when this happens and will provide further instructions on bringing the 243(d) cases to conclusion.
Continued Engagement with Uncooperative or At Risk of Non-Compliance Countries
11. (U) The Department recently urged posts (Ref B) in uncooperative and at risk of non-compliance countries to raise the issue of removals with their host governments. If you are in such a post, the suspension of visa issuance in another country may be a useful point to raise in future discussions encouraging your host country to cooperate on removals. While the United States is willing to work with each country to address its concerns, visa discontinuance remains a possibility if a country fails to cooperate in removals and makes little progress in addressing the issue.
12. (SBU) Any questions on the mechanics of case transfers should be addressed to VO/I. Any questions about the FAM guidance or procedural application of the Secretary's order should be directed to VO/L/A.
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