UNCLASSIFIED (U)

9 FAM 601.8

(U) Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Priority Appointment Request Programs

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)
(Office of Origin:  CA/VO/L/R)

9 FAM 601.8-1  (U) OVERVIEW

9 FAM 601.8-1(A)  (U) In General

(CT:VISA-349;   04-20-2017)

a. (U) In General: The INA confers upon a consular officer exclusive authority to issue nonimmigrant visas, precluding even the Secretary of State from controlling determinations.

b. (U) Advocacy by U.S. Government Officials:

(1)  (U) Advocacy Generally Prohibited: Advocacy for issuance of a visa by a U.S. government official under Chief of Mission (COM) authority generally is prohibited.

(a) (U) Two programs exist for officials under COM authority to advocate for the issuance of a nonimmigrant visa or for special processing consideration of a nonimmigrant visa application.  Those programs are:   

(i)     (U) the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program; and

(ii)    (U) the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program.   

c.  (U) Section Chief Responsibility:

(1)  (U) The Consular Section Chief is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the referral and priority appointment request programs, and for verifying that those programs comply with this guidance. 

(2)  (U) In larger consular sections, the Consular Section Chief may delegate the responsibility for the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program and the Nonimmigrant Priority Appointment Request Program, including providing the mandatory briefings, adjudicating referrals and safeguarding the integrity of the programs, to another senior consular manager whose position is FS-01 or more senior. 

(3)  (U) References to the Consular Section Chief throughout 9 FAM 601.8 should therefore be read as "Consular Section Chief or designated senior consular manager(s) of FS-01 or higher rank", unless specifically noted otherwise.

d. (U) Briefing Required: Officials, regardless of position, must attend a referral/priority appointment request program briefing provided by the Consular Section Chief, read the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program Executive Summary and/or the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program Executive Summary, and sign the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Expedited Appointment Request Programs Compliance Agreement prior to submitting referrals or priority appointment requests.

e. (U) Participation Not Mandatory:  An official is not required and cannot be compelled to make a referral or priority appointment request.  However, any official who wants to advocate for an issuance of a nonimmigrant visa or request a priority appointment must comply with this guidance. 

9 FAM 601.8-1(B)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

(U) 9 FAM 601.8-3, Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program below, details who may make a referral, who may approve a referral, how a referral is processed, and consular section responsibilities for the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program.

9 FAM 601.8-1(C)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

(U) 9 FAM 601.8-4, Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program below, details who may make a priority appointment request, who may approve a priority appointment request, how a priority appointment request is processed, and consular section responsibilities for the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program.

9 FAM 601.8-1(D)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

Unavailable 

9 FAM 601.8-2  (U) Advocacy and information sharing

9 FAM 601.8-2(A)  (U) Prohibition on Advocacy Outside of the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Priority Appointment request programs

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Advocacy for visa issuance, priority appointments, or other special processing courtesies outside of the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program or Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program is strictly prohibited.  Attempts to influence visa case processing outside of these programs by any official under COM authority who does not have direct official responsibilities for the case are categorically prohibited. 

(1)  (U) The only appropriate venue for expressing a preference that a case be issued is the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program and such preference may be expressed only to the extent permitted under that program.

(2)  (U) The only appropriate venue for requesting priority appointment and other courtesies is the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program, and such requests are permitted only to the extent provided under the program.

(3)  (U) U.S. government personnel based in the United States or a third country and U.S. government personnel based in country but not included in the relevant definition of "referring officials" below, are not authorized to submit referrals or priority appointment requests, or to advocate for visa issuance on behalf of an applicant.  Please see 9 FAM 403.3-3 for more information on scheduling appointments.

b. (U) If a U.S. government official refuses to, or is not authorized to, use either program, you may not make any special arrangements to handle a case based on requests from that individual.  Instead, direct the individual to post's website for information on how the applicant can make a visa appointment.

c.  (U) Employees overseas and in domestic assignments (including locally employed staff) may not use their official email or Department letterhead to communicate with a post about a personal visa matter, such as the case of a relative or friend.  When communicating with a post or the Department about a personal visa issue, Department employees must write only to the public inquiries addresses and must not use their professional access to information about a post to identify a particular consular manager or officer. 

9 FAM 601.8-2(B)  (U) Information Sharing outside of the Referral System

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) The distinction between advocacy and general information sharing is an important one that consular managers should bear in mind.

(1)  (U) Advocacy, outside the framework of the referral system, is prohibited.

(2)  (U) General information sharing, however, is encouraged as part of a coordinated effort to ensure that visa adjudications are as accurate as possible, and that officers are familiar with conditions in their consular district.

(a)  (U) For example, this guidance does not prohibit officials from other sections of the mission from sharing non-security derogatory information about actual or potential visa applicants that could be reviewed for inclusion in the lookout system (security-related information should be handled using Visas Viper procedures). 

(b)  (U) In the same vein, the economic or commercial sections might share information about a company or industry encountering difficulties, or rapid growth, not yet apparent to the media or the general public.

(c)  (U) Other sections might also be aware of the planned travel by a government, business, or cultural delegation and can provide this information to the Consular Section Chief.  All such information must be passed to the Consular Section Chief. 

(3)  (U) No information, positive or negative, should be directed to line officers, eligible family members (EFMs) or locally employed staff (LE staff).  Line officers, EFMs, or LE staff approached or contacted regarding visa cases must report the matter to their consular manager.

(4)  (U) Consular managers, as part of their visa adjudication reviews, can also consult other mission offices for information about an applicant’s position, business, or other factors relevant to visa adjudication.

b. (U) Consular Section Chiefs must use proper discretion in determining the difference between information sharing and advocacy regarding key contacts, and determining whether or how this information should be provided to line officers. Please also see 9 FAM 403.3-3 for more information on scheduling appointments.  As a reminder, any information shared by the consular section regarding a visa refusal is for internal use only and is not to be shared with the contact or any other person.

9 FAM 601.8-3  (u) nONIMMIGRANT VISA REFERRAL Program

9 FAM 601.8-3(A)  (U) Overview

(CT:VISA-349;   04-20-2017)

a. (U) What is a Referral? A referral is a request by an authorized U.S. government official (the referring official) for an expedited appointment, other courtesies, and issuance of a visa.  All relevant immigration law and policy applies to the visa adjudication; the consular section will take the advocacy of the referring official into consideration when adjudicating the visa. 

b. (U) Mission-Specific Procedures: The Chief of Mission (COM), Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), or Principal Officer (PO) is responsible, in conjunction with the consular section, for developing formal written mission-specific referral procedures consistent with this guidance. 

(1)  (U) Mission-specific procedures should be tailored to fit the unique circumstances of the consular section.

(2)  (U) Mission-specific procedures must be consistent with this guidance and must not circumvent this guidance.   

b. (U) Executive Summary:  An Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program Executive Summary is available.  In addition to the required briefing, the Consular Section Chief must provide the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program Executive Summary to referring and approving officials to read prior to signing the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Expedited Appointment Request Programs Compliance Agreement. 

9 FAM 601.8-3(B)  (U) Making Nonimmigrant Visa Referrals

9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(1)  (U) Who May Make and Approve a Nonimmigrant Visa Referral

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Referring Officials:

(1) (U) Not an Obligation:  No official is required or can be compelled to participate in the program, or if participating, to refer a specific applicant.

(2)  (U) Requirements for Referring Officials:  To submit a referral, an individual must:

(a)  (U) Be a U.S. citizen, direct hire or Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) or AEFM hire, encumbering an NSDD-38 authorized position or serving in a long-term TDY role (of more than 121 days) in place of a permanently stationed direct hire who falls under COM authority and encumbers an NSDD-38 position as defined by the human resources (HR) section at post;

(b)  (U) Attend a referral briefing with the Consular Section Chief; and

(c)  (U) Submit a signed and dated Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Expedited Appointment Request Programs Compliance Agreement to the Consular Section Chief.

(3)  (U) Multilateral Missions: Officials meeting the above requirements at a multilateral U.S. mission overseas (NATO, OECD, etc.) may submit referrals to the consular section with jurisdiction over their geographic region. 

(4)  (U) Multi-Post Missions:  Officials may submit referrals at constituent posts in the same Mission where they are assigned.

(5)  (U) Posts Without Visa Services: Officials at posts without visa services who otherwise meet the requirements in paragraph (a)(2) above may submit referrals to the designated consular section(s) where host country applicants are directed to apply for visas. 

(6)  (U) Individuals with Regional Responsibilities:

(a)  (U) Officials with regional responsibilities (such as Legal Attaches, Regional Medical Officers, etc.) who meet the requirements in paragraph (a)(2) above may submit referrals to the various consular sections within their region. 

(b)  (U) The consular section chief in the consular section receiving the referral should request a copy of the compliance agreement from the consular section that provided the referral briefing.)

b. (U) Approving Officials:

(1)  (U) Who May Approve: The chief of section/agency head of the referring official's section or agency must approve each referral. 

(a)  (U) Absences: In the absence of a section/agency head or acting head, the PO (if at a consulate), the DCM, or Ambassador must approve the referral. 

(b)  (U) When CG or PO is the Referrer:  For consulates, where the Consul General (CG) or PO is the referring official, the COM or DCM of the overall mission must be the approving official. 

(c)  (U) Dual Referring and Approval Authority: Only the Ambassador, the DCM, or Chargé d'Affaires may serve as both the referring and approving official on the same referral.

(d)  (U) Approval Where There are No Visa Services:  A referring official from a post where there are no visa services must obtain approval from his or her COM, DCM, or PO in order to complete the referral.

(2)  (U) What is Approved?  In signing the referral, the approving official is certifying that:

(a)  (U) the case meets the criteria set forth in this guidance, including that the referring official meets the requirements above, the referral furthers a U.S. government interest or a compelling mission priority, and the applicant meets the criteria below; 

(b)  (U) to the best of his or her knowledge the applicant does not constitute a threat to the safety or national security of the United States; and

(c)  (U) he or she is requesting the issuance of the visa. 

(d)  (U) Note that the approving official need not know the applicant personally.

(3) (U) Briefing Required: Prior to approving referrals, the approving official must attend the referral briefing with the Consular Section Chief and sign the Nonimmigrant Visa NIV Referral and Priority Appointment Request Program Compliance Agreement.

9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Criteria

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) In General:  A referral is permitted only when it furthers a U.S. national interest or compelling mission priority (see 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraph d below).

b. (U) Prohibition:  Referrals may not be submitted for domestic staff, i.e., nannies, medical assistants, etc., including those working for mission personnel. 

c.  (U) Criteria: To qualify for a referral, the following three conditions must be met:

(1)  (U) The referring official must certify that assisting the contact directly furthers U.S. national interests or mission priorities (see 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraphs d and e below);

(2)  (U) The contact must be personally and favorably known to the referring official (see 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraph f below); and

(3)  (U) The contact must not have been refused a visa within the last two years unless the refusal has been subsequently overcome or waived (see 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraph g below).

d. (U) U.S. National Interest: For purposes of referrals, the national interest includes, but is not limited to, assisting the travel of a contact who directly furthers or significantly promotes the priorities of the Department and/or the United States government as a whole both internationally and domestically.  For examples of some instances of appropriate referrals see paragraph i. below.

e. (U) Mission Priorities:  For purposes of referrals, compelling mission priorities include but are not limited to, assisting an individual who directly support the mission or promotes the interests or public diplomacy efforts of the mission, consistent with the mission’s strategic plan or similar document.  For examples of appropriate referrals see paragraph i. below. 

f.  (U) Personally and Favorably Known:

(1)  (U) Requirement: "Personally and favorably known" means the referring official attests in writing that he or she has ongoing interaction with the contact, and that the contact is not believed to constitute a threat to the national security of the United States.  A single meeting for the sole purpose of making the referral is not sufficient to meet this requirement.

(2) (U) Exception: The only exception to this requirement is for a qualifying family member per paragraph h. below.

g. (U) Previous Refusals:

(1)  (U) If the contact has been a refused a visa, in any class, the contact is not qualified for a referral, unless the refusal was subsequently overcome, waived, or two years or more have passed since the refusal.

(2)  (U) The referring official must ask the contact about previous visa refusals, the date of the refusal and any overcome or waiver of such refusal before submitting the referral.  If the contact indicates he or she was refused within the previous two years and that refusal was not overcome or waived, a referral may not be submitted for that contact.

h. (U) Qualifying Family Members:  Spouse, same-sex domestic partner (as described in 9 FAM 402.3-4(J)(4)), child(ren) (see the definition of "child" in 9 FAM 102.8) and parent(s) (of both the contact and his/her spouse) of a contact for whom a referral is submitted may be included on the referral.  Contact CA/VO/F for guidance on cases involving unmarried adult (over the age of 21) children with disabilities.

(1)  (U) A qualifying family member may be referred independently so long as all of the above criteria are met and the contact's qualifications are clearly documented, i.e. the contact already has a visa, or his or her family is traveling without the contact.

(2)  (U) The referring official need not know the qualifying family member of the contact.

i.  (U) Examples of Contacts Who May Be Eligible for Referrals: It is appropriate to submit a referral for a contact who meets criteria above and falls within one of the following categories:

(1)  (U) Individuals who directly further U.S. national interests or compelling mission priorities, including high-level post contacts and influential, prominent figures in the government or in professional, business, scientific, artistic, or academic communities;

(2)  (U) Individuals who significantly promote U.S. public diplomacy efforts in the host nation, including distinguished members of the government, professional, business, scientific, artistic, and academic communities who warrant special consideration;

(3)  (U) Locally employed staff (LE staff) traveling to the United States for official U.S. government purposes.

9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(3)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-521;   03-14-2018)

Unavailable    

9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(4)  (U) Submitting a Nonimmigrant Visa Referral

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) In General:

(1)  (U) To submit a referral the referring official must provide to the Consular Section Chief in a sealed envelope or by email:

(a) (U) The DS-5533 referral form; and

(b) (U) A copy of the contact's DS-160 confirmation page.

(2) (U) All other documentation, including the contact's passport, visa photo, proof of payment of applicable visa fees, and supplemental documentation required for the visa type (i.e., an I-20 for a student visa applicant or a DS-2019 for an exchange visitor) should be submitted by the contact at the time of the interview or pursuant to post's established application procedures.

(3)  (U) The referring official must not collect any fees from the contact.

b. (U) Completing the DS-5533: The DS-5533, Nonimmigrant Visa Referral, is the only mechanism for referring officials to submit referrals.

(1)  (U) The DS-5533 is for internal communication only and must not be given (original or copy) to the contact. 

(2)  (U) The referring official must fully complete and sign the DS-5533 for the primary contact, listing any qualifying family members on the same form. (For non-family groups travelling together, each contact must have a DS-5533). 

(3)  (U) The Consular Section Chief must reject a DS-5533 that is incomplete or submitted for a contact who does not qualify for a referral.  Rejected referrals will be documented on the DS-5500, Referral Rejection/Refusal, which will be delivered to the referring official with a copy retained in consular section files.  (See 9 FAM 601.8-3(F)

(4)  (U) The completed DS-5533 must detail:

(a)  (U) How the contact is known to the referring official, and the degree to which the referring official has interactions with the contact; and

(b)  (U) How the referral serves U.S. national interest or a mission priority.  The referring official must provide a thorough explanation.  Simply stating that the contact is an important contact is not sufficient justification.

(5)  (U) LE staff should not handle substantive aspects of the NIV Referral process, such as drafting of the justification, but may handle administrative aspects, such as scheduling.

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9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(5)  (U) Requests for Assistance After Adjudication

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

(U) On occasion, an individual who has not been the subject of a referral may approach a referring official for assistance after a visa interview. 

(1)  (U) Refused Applicants: If the contact was refused a visa (except under INA 221(g) for "administrative processing") he or she must apply again.  A referring official may submit a referral if the contact's refusal was more than two years ago, or if the contact was subsequently issued a visa.  No other additional assistance may be given.

(2)  (U) Pending Applicants:  If the contact requests assistance with "administrative processing" or seeks more rapid return of an approved visa, an official qualified to submit a referral may send an email to the Consular Section Chief requesting assistance. 

(a)  (U) This must be limited to those individuals who would have received a referral or a priority appointment request had the referring official known they were applying beforehand.  The email must include an explanation of the U.S. government interest or mission priority supported in the case.  The Consular Section Chief must make a case note in the NIV case indicating the request for assistance.

(b)  (U) Please note that there may be instances in which the consular section may not be able to provide assistance.

9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(6)  (U) Derogatory Information After Adjudication

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

(U) The referring official must notify the consular section and the approving official immediately when he or she becomes aware, or has reason to suspect, that any contact is no longer qualified for the visa or his or her status in the U.S., or has misrepresented him or herself in any manner in relation to the visa process or U.S. law.  This includes failure to return after an authorized stay, non-attendance at a U.S. government sponsored event or changes of status in the United States.  Failure to do so can result in loss of referral privileges and/or disciplinary action.

9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(7)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Priority Appointment Request Programs Compliance Agreement

(CT:VISA-349;   04-20-2017)

(U) All referring and approving officials must complete a Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Priority Appointment Request Program Compliance Agreement.  The agreement reads as follows: 

I (printed name)________________________certify that I have read the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program Executive Summary and the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program Executive Summary, attended the required program briefing (s), and will comply with all aspects of the referral program guidance. 

I affirm that the following are my duties and responsibilities as a referring and/or approving official:

I will use only the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program to advocate for individuals whose travel furthers U.S. national interest or a mission priority, and who are personally and favorably known to me.  My signature on a referral serves as a request for issuance of the visa and attests that to the best of my knowledge the individual does not constitute a threat to the safety or national security of the United States.

I will use only the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program to advocate for individuals whose travel is in the U.S. government's interest or whose travel meets a compelling mission priority.  My signature on a priority appointment request serves as a request for an expedited appointment and not a request that a visa be issued, and attests that to the best of my knowledge the individual does not constitute a threat to the safety or national security of the United States.

I will notify the Consular Section Chief, and the approving official if I become aware that an individual whom I have referred or for whom I have submitted a priority appointment request has violated or intends to violate either the terms of the visa that he or she was issued or his or her status in the United States.

I understand that if the consular section determines that a referral or priority appointment request is incomplete or inappropriate, the referral or priority appointment request will be returned to me with Form DS-5500, detailing information regarding the rejection.  If a referred individual or an individual for whom I requested a priority appointment request is refused a visa, that information also will be provided to me on Form DS-5500.

I understand that in signing as an approving official, I am certifying that I believe the case meets the criteria set forth in 9 FAM 601.8-3 and 9 FAM 601.8-4

I acknowledge that failure to comply with the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program guidance and/or Priority Appointment Request guidance will be regarded as abuse of the referral program and will result in loss of referral privileges—for me and possibly for my section – and/or disciplinary action and possible criminal charges.  Intentional false statements made in furtherance of a visa referral may be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1001, Statements on Entries Generally, and other applicable law.

 

_____________________                                  ____________________

Name/Section                                                   Briefed by (Name/Title)

 

_____________________                                  ____________________

Signature/Date                                                 Signature/Date

9 FAM 601.8-3(C)  (U) Scheduling the Visa Interview for a Referral Case

(CT:VISA-292;   03-06-2017)

a. (U) Post's mission-specific procedures should include the method by which post informs the contact of his or her appointment time.

b. (U) A contact who misses the scheduled appointment may be required to schedule a normal appointment, at the Consular Section Chief's discretion.

c. (U) The referring official may not accompany contact(s) to the consular waiting room or the interview.

9 FAM 601.8-3(D)  (U) Adjudicating a Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Case

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Who May Adjudicate: 

(1)  (U) Because of the importance the Department and chiefs of mission (COM) place on this key consular function, all visa referral cases must be adjudicated by the Consular Section Chief, or someone acting officially in that capacity due to extended absence of the chief (i.e., not away at a meeting, etc.) or in cases where the chief must recuse him/herself. 

(2)  (U) It is never appropriate for a referral case to be adjudicated by an untenured officer, unless there is no tenured consular officer at post.

b. (U) Interview Waiver Cases: If a contact qualifies for interview waiver (9 FAM 403.5-4), the case may be adjudicated without an interview, but must be adjudicated by the Consular Section Chief, as specified in 9 FAM 601.8-3(D) paragraph a(1) above

c.  (U) NIV Case Notes:  The adjudicating officer must add case notes regarding the adjudication for all referred cases. The NIV case notes in the system must reflect that the case is a referral and include notes on any administrative follow-up and unusual circumstances.  The case notes must explain any refusal in detail.

d. (U) When Visa is Refused: 

(1)  (U) Informing the Referring Official:

(a)  (U) To avoid potential embarrassment between the referring official and the contact, the adjudicating officer should inform the referring official of any visa refusal as soon as possible after the contact is informed of the refusal. 

(b)  (U) The referring official should be informed in the most expeditious manner possible of the refusal, including orally.  The Consular Section Chief will then provide a completed DS-5500, detailing the refusal, as soon as practical after the initial communication. The consular section should scan the DS-5500 into the NIV case. 

(2)  (U) Informing Others:  The Consular Section Chief must keep the front office and relevant embassy sections apprised of any refusals of referral cases that could have implications for the bilateral relationship.   

9 FAM 601.8-3(E)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program Records

(CT:VISA-521;   03-14-2018)

a. (U) Consular section chiefs must ensure that data entry personnel properly enter referrals and clearly identify any scanned documents associated with the referral by selecting the appropriate description during scanning.  Until updates are made to the NIV system, posts can continue to document referrals as "Class A referrals" in the system, and Priority Appointment Requests as "Class B referrals."

b. (U) For each referral, posts must scan Form DS-5533, Nonimmigrant Visa Referral, and other relevant documentation into the record (see 9 FAM 601.6 for further details on records retention and scanning).  There are no exceptions.  These electronic records are retained indefinitely in the consular consolidated database (CCD) and are subject to review.

c. (U) Copies of signed Compliance Agreements should be maintained in the subject file for “Referrals and Priority Appointment Requests” (see 9 FAM 601.6 for details on visa subject files).  When an individual with regional responsibilities submits a referral at a consular section where s/he did not receive a referral briefing, the consular section chief in the consular section receiving the referral should request a copy of the signed compliance agreement from the consular section that had provided the referral briefing.

9 FAM 601.8-3(F)  (U) Providing Feedback to Referring and Approving Officials

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

a. (U) The Consular Section Chief must provide the referring and approving officials timely feedback on any rejected referral or visa refusal of a referred contact. 

b. (U) The Consular Section Chief must complete a DS-5500 to provide such feedback and must provide the completed form to the referring and approving officials as soon as practical after the referral is rejected or the contact is refused a visa. 

c.  (U) The Consular Section Chief is responsible for ensuring the DS-5500 is scanned into the refused visa case record.  Information contained in the DS-5500 is for internal communications only and should not be shared with the contact.

d. (U) Derogatory information regarding the contact that becomes available to the Consular Section Chief after visa issuance must be brought to the referring official's attention, or to the section chief, if the referring official has left post. The referring officer should be informed of INA 222(f) limitations on sharing information with the applicant or other interested parties.

9 FAM 601.8-3(G)  (U) Maintaining the Integrity of the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral Program

9 FAM 601.8-3(G)(1)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-349;   04-20-2017)

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9 FAM 601.8-3(G)(2)  (U) Abuse of the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral System

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Referring and approving officials will be held accountable for understanding and applying this guidance in every referral case.  If an official has any questions about this guidance he or she should speak with the Consular Section Chief, the Director of CA/VO/F, or the Program Ombudsman (see 9 FAM 601.8-3(H) below) for clarification before submitting or approving a referral.

b. (U) The COM, in consultation with the Consular Section Chief, CA/VO/F, and CA/FPP/CID, may suspend or revoke the authority to make or approve referrals from any particular referring/approving official or from an entire section or group of mission personnel based on abuse of the program. 

c. (U) Mission personnel are held to the Ethical Standards of Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.  5 CFR 2635.101(b)(14) requires that U.S. government employees "avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards.” 

d. (U) Communication regarding a visa referral may be made only to the Consular Section Chief.  Any attempt to communicate with or influence other consular section staff members regarding a visa case may be considered abuse of the program.

9 FAM 601.8-3(G)(3)  (U) Reporting Abuses of the Referral Program

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Annual Management Control Certification:  As part of the annual management controls certification, the Consular Section Chief must certify that an annual referral program validation study was conducted and report any problems or instances of abuse revealed in the study (see 9 FAM 601.8-3(G)(1) paragraph c above for more information on the validation study). 

b.  (U) Referring Officials with Significant Number of Unqualified Referrals: The Consular Section Chief is required to inform the COM, DCM, Regional Security Officer (RSO), CA/VO/F, and CA/FPP/CID in writing of any instances in which a particular referring official or office/agency refers significant numbers of unqualified contacts.  The COM should be prepared to review the cases and impose such penalties as he or she and the Consular Section Chief believe appropriate.  Posts are encouraged to consult with CA/VO/F and CA/FPP/CID for assistance in managing post’s response to instances of abuse.

c. (U) All Other Abuses: All other potential abuses of the referral program must be referred to the Director of CA/VO/F for policy guidance and to CA/FPP/CID for investigation and coordination with DS and HR for appropriate criminal or disciplinary action.  Federal courts have convicted individuals for complicity in false immigration schemes based on signed referral forms.  Intentional false statements made in furtherance of visa referrals may be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1001, Statements on Entries Generally, and other applicable law.

d. (U) Consular Section Staff:  No information about visa cases, positive or negative, should be directed to any consular section staff members other than the Consular Section Chief. Consular staff members including consular adjudicators, EFMs and LE staff approached or contacted regarding visa cases must report the matter to their Consular Section Chief. 

9 FAM 601.8-3(H)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa  Referral Program Ombudsman

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

a. (U) What is the Purpose of the Referral Program Ombudsman?  For those rare instances in which an officer perceives undue pressure to issue a visa subject to a referral but feels unable to discuss it at post, CA established a referral program ombudsman.  The Ombudsman will discuss any concerns related to potential abuse of the referral program or the perception of pressure exerted within or outside of the referral program. 

b. (U) Who is the Ombudsman? The Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Consular Affairs serves as the Ombudsman. 

c.  (U) How Do I Contact the Ombudsman? The Managing Director of VO serves as the first point of contact for officers and will bring cases of concern to the immediate attention of the Assistant Secretary.  Officers may contact the Managing Director by phone or email if they have concerns that undue pressure is being exerted within or outside of the referral program.

9 FAM 601.8-4  (U) NOnimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Requests Program

9 FAM 601.8-4(A)  (U) Overview

(CT:VISA-292;   03-06-2017)

a. (U) What is a Priority Appointment Request?  A priority appointment request is a formal request by a qualified U.S. government official for an earlier interview or for other courtesies for an individual when U.S. national interest or a compelling mission priority would be served by expediting the appointment.  It is not a request for visa issuance. 

b. (U) Mission-Specific Procedures: The COM, DCM, or PO is responsible, in conjunction with the consular section, for developing formal written priority appointment request procedures consistent with this guidance. 

(1) (U) Mission-specific procedures should be tailored to fit unique circumstances of each consular section. 

(2)  (U) Mission-specific procedures must be consistent with this guidance and must not circumvent this guidance.  

c.  (U) Executive Summary:  A Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Program Executive Summary is available.  In addition to the required briefing, the Consular Section Chief must provide the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Program Executive Summary to requesting and approving officials to read prior to signing the Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Priority Appointment Request Compliance Agreement.

9 FAM 601.8-4(B)  (U) Making Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Requests

9 FAM 601.8-4(B)(1)  (U) Who May Make and Approve a Nonimmigrant Priority Appointment Request

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Requesting Official: A requesting official must meet the same qualification standards as a referring official as outlined in 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(1) paragraph a above

b. (U) Approving Officials:

(1)  (U) An approving official must meet the same qualifications as approving official for referrals as outlined in 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(1) paragraph b above.

(2)  (U) When approving a priority appointment request, the approving official does not attest to the contact's national security risk or request a visa be issued.

9 FAM 601.8-4(B)(2)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Criteria

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Criteria: To qualify for a priority appointment request, the following two conditions must be met: 

(1)  (U) the requesting official must certify that assisting the contact directly furthers a U.S. national interest or a compelling mission priority; and

(2)  (U) the contact is personally and favorably known to the requesting official or the requesting official has reasonable knowledge of the contact's bona fides. 

b. (U) U.S. National Interest:  The national interest standard for priority appointment requests is the same standard as for referrals.  See 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraph d above for more information on the national interest standard.

c.  (U) Mission Priorities:  The mission priorities standard for priority appointment requests is the same standard as for referrals.  See 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraph e above for more information on the mission priorities standard. For examples of some instances of appropriate priority appointment requests cases see paragraph g. below.

d. (U) Knowledge of the Applicant: 

(1)  (U) Individual Personally Known:  A requesting official may request a priority appointment for a contact he or she personally knows under the standard for "personally and favorably known" for referrals as outlined in 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraph e above.

(2)  (U) Individual Not Personally Known: 

(a)  (U) A requesting official may request a priority appointment for a contact he or she does not personally know if the officer has reasonable knowledge of the contact's bona fides. 

(b)  (U) Priority appointment requests may not be made solely on the basis of a recommendation from a third party, even another key contact or LE staff.

e. (U) Previously Refused Contacts:  A priority appointment request may be submitted for a previously refused contact, provided the contact otherwise meets the requirements above.  A contact may qualify for a priority appointment request regardless of the date of the most recent refusal.  However, it is important to note that a priority appointment request should not be used as an "appeal" process.  Frequent submission of priority appointment requests for unqualified applicants is considered abuse of the priority appointment request system.

f.  (U) Qualifying Family Members:  A requesting official may request a priority appointment for a qualifying family member under the standard for "qualifying family members" for referrals as outlined in 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(2) paragraph h.

g. (U) Examples of Contacts Who May Be Eligible for Priority Appointment Requests: It is appropriate to submit priority appointment requests for a contact who meets the criteria above in the following circumstances:

(1)  (U) A prominent individual who is not known by the requesting official, but who is well known, such as a nationally known figure.

(2)  (U) LE staff travelling for personal reasons.  Note that LE staff who do not receive a priority appointment request must obtain an NIV appointment through usual post procedures and will be treated like any normal applicant;

(3)  (U)The parents, spouse, same-sex domestic partner, parents of the spouse, children, or members of household (MOH), as recognized by the mission, of a U.S. citizen direct-hire employee assigned to the mission. 

(a)  (U) This must not be used to circumvent K nonimmigrant processing guidance. 

(b)  (U) Nannies and other household help are not eligible for priority appointment requests as a member of the household.

9 FAM 601.8-4(B)(3)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

Unavailable    

9 FAM 601.8-4(B)(4)  (U) Submitting a Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request

(CT:VISA-164;   08-25-2016)

a.  (U) The DS-5534, Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request, is the only mechanism for a requesting official to submit a priority appointment request.

b. (U) The DS-5534 is for internal communication only and must not be given (original or copy) to the contact. 

c.  (U) The requesting official must fully complete and sign a DS-5534 for the primary contact, listing any qualifying family members on the same form. (For non-family groups travelling together, each contact must have a separate DS-5534). 

d. (U) The Consular Section Chief must reject any DS-5534 that is incomplete or submitted for an individual who is not qualified for a priority appointment.  Rejected priority appointment requests will be documented on the DS-5500, Referral Rejection/Refusal, which will be delivered to the referring official with a copy retained in consular section files.

e. (U) To submit a priority appointment request, the requesting official must provide to the Consular Section Chief in a sealed envelope or by email:

(1)  (U) The DS-5534; and

(2)  (U) A copy of the applicant’s DS-160 confirmation. 

f.  (U) All other documentation, including the contact's passport, visa photo, proof of payment of applicable visa fees, and supplemental documentation required for the visa type (i.e., an I-20 for a student visa applicant or a DS-2019 for an exchange visitor) should be submitted by the contact at the time of the interview, or pursuant to post's established application procedures.

g. (U) The requesting official must not collect any fees from the contact.

h. (U) LE staff should not handle substantive aspects of the NIV Priority Appointment Request process, such as drafting of the justification, but may handle administrative aspects, such as scheduling.

9 FAM 601.8-4(B)(5)  (U) Derogatory Information After Scheduling or Adjudication

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

(U) The requesting officials must notify the Consular Section Chief and the approving official immediately when he or she becomes aware, or has reason to suspect, that any contact is no longer qualified for the visa or status in the United States, or has misrepresented him or herself in any manner in relation to the visa process or U.S. law.  This includes failure to return after an authorized stay, non-attendance at a U.S. government sponsored event or changes of status in the United States. Failure to do so can result in loss of requesting privileges and/or disciplinary action.

9 FAM 601.8-4(B)(6)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program Compliance Agreement

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

(U) All requesting and approving officials must complete a Nonimmigrant Visa Referral and Priority Appointment Request Programs Compliance Agreement.  See 9 FAM 601.8-3(B)(7) above for the text of the compliance agreement.

9 FAM 601.8-4(C)  (U) Scheduling an Interview for a Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Case

(CT:VISA-292;   03-06-2017)

a. (U) Post's mission-specific procedures should include the method by which post informs the contact of his or her appointment time.

b. (U) A contact who misses the scheduled priority appointment will be required to schedule a normal appointment.

c.  (U) The requesting official may not accompany the contact(s) to the consular waiting room or the interview.

9 FAM 601.8-4(D)  (U) Adjudicating a Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Case

(CT:VISA-292;   03-06-2017)

a. (U) Who May Adjudicate: Priority appointment requests may be adjudicated by any consular adjudicator and should be adjudicated as any ordinary NIV case. 

b. (U) Interview Waiver: If a priority appointment request qualifies for an interview waiver, it may be adjudicated by any consular adjudicator following regular IWP procedures. 

c.  (U) When Visa is Refused:

(1) (U) To avoid potential embarrassment with a contact, the requesting official must be informed immediately by the consular section of any visa refusal of an applicant with a priority appointment request.  Adjudicating officers should not communicate directly with requesting officials concerning cases, but advise the Consular Section Chief of the refusal; the Consular Section Chief should inform the requesting official of the refusal.

(2)  (U) The requesting official must be informed of the refusal in the most expeditious manner. 

(3)  (U) The Consular Section Chief will provide a completed DS-5500, detailing the refusal to the requesting official as soon as practical.  

9 FAM 601.8-4(E)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program Records

(CT:VISA-292;   03-06-2017)

a. (U) Consular section chiefs must ensure that data entry personnel properly enter requests for priority appointments and clearly identify scanned documents associated with the request by selecting the appropriate description during scanning.  Until updates are made to the NIV system, posts can continue to document referrals as "Class A referrals" in the system, and Priority Appointment Requests as "Class B referrals."

b. (U) For each request, post must scan Form DS-5534, Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request, and any associated documentation into the record (see 9 FAM 601.6 for further details on records retention and scanning).  There are no exceptions.  These electronic records are retained indefinitely in the consular consolidate database (CCD) and are subject to review.

c. (U) Copies of signed Compliance Agreements should be maintained in the subject file for “Referrals and Priority Appointment Request Program” (see 9 FAM 601.6 for details on visa subject files).

9 FAM 601.8-4(F)  (U) Providing Feedback to Requesting Officers

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

a. (U) Requesting and approving officials must be provided timely feedback on any rejected request or contact who is subsequently refused a visa. 

b. (U) The DS-5500 is the appropriate mechanism for providing such feedback. 

c.  (U) The DS-5500 must be scanned into the refused visa case record. Information contained in the DS-5500 is for internal communications only and should not be shared with the contact.

9 FAM 601.8-4(G)  (U) Maintaining the Integrity of the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program

9 FAM 601.8-4(G)(1)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-349;   04-20-2017)

a. Unavailable     

(1)  Unavailable   

(2)  Unavailable   

(3)  Unavailable   

(4)  Unavailable   

b. Unavailable    

c.  Unavailable     

d. Unavailable   

e. Unavailable   

9 FAM 601.8-4(G)(2)  (U) Abuse of the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program

(CT:VISA-273;   12-20-2016)

a. (U) Requesting and approving officials will be held accountable for understanding and applying this guidance in every priority appointment request case. 

b. (U) The Chief of Mission, in consultation with the Consular Section Chief, CA/VO/F, and CA/FPP/CID, may suspend or revoke the authority to make or approve priority appointment requests from any particular requesting/approving official or from an entire section or group of mission personnel based on abuse of the program. 

c. (U) Mission personnel are held to the Ethical Standards of Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.  5 CFR 2635.101(b)(14) requires that U.S. government employees "avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards.” 

d. (U) Communication regarding a priority appointment request may be made only to the Consular Section Chief.  Any attempt to influence consular section staff members regarding a visa case may be considered abuse of the program.

9 FAM 601.8-4(G)(3)  (U) Reporting Abuses in Monitoring of Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

a. (U) Annual Management Control Certification:  As part of the annual management controls certification, the Consular Section Chief must certify that an annual priority appointment request validation study was conducted and report any problems or instances of abuse revealed in the study (see 9 FAM 601.8-3(G)(1) paragraph c above for more information on the validation study]. 

b. (U) Requesting Officials with Significant Number of Unqualified Requests: The Consular Section Chief is required to inform the COM, DCM, Regional Security Officer (RSO), CA/VO/F, and CA/FPP/CID in writing of any instances of an official or office/agency requesting a significant number of unqualified priority appointments.  The COM should be prepared to review the cases and impose such penalties as he or she and the Consular Section Chief believe appropriate if any of the requests do not comply with the requirements in this guidance.  Posts are encouraged to consult with CA/VO/F and CA/FPP/CID for assistance in managing post’s response to instances of potential abuse.

c. (U) All Other Abuses: All other potential abuses of the Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program must be referred to the Director of CA/VO/F for policy guidance and to CA/FPP/CID for investigation and coordination with DS and HR for appropriate criminal or disciplinary action.  Intentional false statements made in furtherance of priority appointment requests may be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1001, Statements on Entries Generally, and other applicable law.

9 FAM 601.8-4(H)  (U) Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program Ombudsman

(CT:VISA-292;   03-06-2017)

a. (U) What is the Purpose of the Priority Appointment Request Program Ombudsman?  For those rare instances in which an officer perceives undue pressure to provide priority appointment or other courtesies for an individual not subject to a valid request for a priority appointment, CA established a Nonimmigrant Visa Priority Appointment Request Program Ombudsman.  The Ombudsman will discuss any concerns related to a potential abuse of the program or the perception of pressure being exerted within or outside of the program. 

b. (U) Who is the Ombudsman? The Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Consular Affairs serves as the Ombudsman. 

c.  (U) How Do I Contact the Ombudsman? The Managing Director of VO serves as the first point of contact for officers and will bring cases of concern to the immediate attention of the Assistant Secretary.  Officers may contact the Managing Director by phone or email if they have concerns that undue pressure is being exerted within or outside of the priority appointment system.

9 FAM 601.8-5  Unavailable   

9 FAM 601.8-5(A)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-925;   08-16-2019)

Unavailable   

(1) Unavailable   

(2) Unavailable   

9 FAM 601.8-5(B)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-292;   03-06-2017)

a. Unavailable    

(1)  Unavailable    

(2)  Unavailable    

b. Unavailable    

c.  Unavailable     

d. Unavailable     

e. Unavailable     

(1)  Unavailable     

(2)  Unavailable    

(3)  Unavailable   

9 FAM 601.8-5(C)  Unavailable   

(CT:VISA-264;   12-08-2016)

a. Unavailable   

b. Unavailable   

(1)  Unavailable   

(2)  Unavailable   

(3)  Unavailable   

UNCLASSIFIED (U)