As part of its foreign policy responsibilities, the U.S. Department of State has authority over four key functions to immigration law:
- to issue and deny temporary visas and permanent visas and lottery registrations to aliens, through its consular offices abroad, with oversight (but not control) from the Visa Office in Washington DC, with coordinating assistance from the National Visa Center and the Kentucky Consular Center, and with help from certain offices in the U.S. that handle revalidation applications.
- to designate and monitor exchange visitor programs and to decide whom to recommend to the immigration service (“USCIS”) for waiver of the two-year home residency requirement that haunts some exchange visitors, primarily through Exchange Program Designation Services and a J-1 Waiver Review Branch in Washington, DC.
- to determine certain claims to citizenship and loss of citizenship.
- to issue passports to citizens, through its Passport Services offices.
In dealing with consular officers in particular, it is important to remember that the embassies in which they work have increasingly become targets for international terrorists, and it takes courage to work in those places. That courage deserves particular respect, as tempting as it may become occasionally to resent the god-like authority consular officers have in making visa denials that are not reviewable in any court.
The State Department’s web site, along with its web page for the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) contains vast amounts of information about far more than immigration matters. The CA site is intuitively organized with sectioins for International Travel (for americans abroad), Passports, Visas, Children’s Services, and Law & Policy.
How We Can Help
Baker Donelson’s Immigration Group understands the rules that consular officers and other State Department officials apply. Some of our attorneys are former U.S. ambassadors, and others have worked in embassies. Thus, we are familiar with the environment in which visa applications are adjudicated. We assist clients and consular officers by being familiar with the specific rules applicable to a case, including internal instructions from the Visa Office, and by presenting relevant facts in a straightforward manner to unravel complex problems. We assist clients, and especially physicians, in obtaining waivers of the 2-year J-1 home residency rule, often in connection with another U.S. government agency or a state government. We press claims for citizenship in passport applications and before consular officers. We defend clients in rare proceedings to terminate their citizenship.
Consult with us for assistance with a case.