Live: U.S. Politics
MRN: 17 STATE 93404
Date/DTG: Sep 12, 2017 /120126Z SEP 17
From: SECSTATE WASHDC
Action: ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE ROUTINE
TAGS: CMGT, CVIS, DHS, SL,1A, 1W
Reference: A) 17 STATE 9540
B) 16 STATE 47479
C) 17 STATE 93390
Subject: GUIDANCE ON THE SUSPENSION OF CERTAIN VISAS IN SIERRA LEONE
1. (U) Summary: Effective September 13, the United States will discontinue the issuance of nonimmigrant B1, B2, and B1/B2 visa applications for Ministry of Foreign Affairs and immigration officials in Sierra Leone who apply in Freetown, because the Department of Homeland Security has determined that country is denying or unreasonably delaying acceptance of the return of its citizens from the United States. The suspension does not apply to Sierra Leoneans applying outside Freetown, although posts encountering such applicants should consult the guidance in paragraphs 7-8 concerning out-of-district cases. Further expansion of visa categories and affected groups may be announced in the future. 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 Sierra Leone should be directed to CA/P. All operational inquiries should go to CA/VO. End Summary.
2. (U) On August 16, 2017, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Duke notified Secretary Tillerson that Sierra Leone 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 Sierra Leone to discontinue granting B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and immigration officials of Sierra Leone. If Sierra Leone continues to refuse or unreasonably delay the return of its nationals, the suspension may be expanded to include additional categories of visa applicants. Conversely, should the Secretary of Homeland Security notify the Secretary of State that Sierra Leone has resumed cooperation, visa restrictions will be lifted.
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) 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.
Operational Mechanics at Embassy Freetown
5. (SBU) In accordance with an Order of the Secretary of State under section INA 243(d), consular officers at Embassy Freetown will, starting September 13, 2017, discontinue the issuance of all B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, and immigration officials, of the Republic of Sierra Leone. For the duration of the suspension, Embassy Freetown 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 Freetown will submit visa applications possibly falling within one of the exceptions in the Secretary’s order to the Department for an Advisory Opinion.
Sierra Leonean Applicants Applying Outside Sierra Leone
6. (SBU) Posts should note that INA 243(d) applies only to visa issuance in Sierra Leone; therefore, B visa applications from the specific categories of Sierra Leoneans described in the paragraphs above could still be issued in another country. While 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,” 9 FAM 601.12-3(E) precludes you from accepting the applications of nationals of 243(d) countries if the applicant is not a resident of your consular district. If a covered individual who is not a resident of their consular district is not eligible for a visa, then consular officers outside Sierra Leone 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 Sierra Leone to avoid the visa suspension, officers outside Sierra Leone must transfer the case to Embassy Freetown.
How to Refuse Out of District Cases in NIV
7. (SBU) Consular officers who believe applicants are seeking to avoid the visa suspension in Sierra Leone should use the “case transfer” function in NIV 4.10 in “Open” status and transfer the case to Embassy Freetown. 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 Visa Restrictions
8. (SBU) Under the Secretary’s order, some applicants in Sierra Leone 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 Visa Restrictions:
10. (U) When the Secretary of Homeland Security has informed the Secretary of State that the Government of Sierra Leone 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 a 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 abjectly fails to cooperate in removals and makes no 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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