9 fam 603
(u) protecting and releasing visa-related information

9 FAM 603.1

(u) Protecting Visa Information

(CT:VISA-1424;   11-09-2021)
(Office of Origin: CA/VO)

9 FAM 603.1-1   (u) Related Statutory and Regulatory AuThorities

(CT:VISA-332;   04-11-2017)

(U) INA 222(f) (8 U.S.C. 1202(f)).

9 FAM 603.1-2  (u) Visa Files, RECORDS, and information – Overview

(CT:VISA-1424;   11-09-2021)

a. (U) Per INA 222(f), "the records of the Department of State and of diplomatic and consular offices of the United States pertaining to the issuance or refusal of visas or permits to enter the United States shall be considered confidential and shall be used only for the formulation, amendment, administration, or enforcement of the immigration, nationality, and other laws of the United States," with very few exceptions.

b. (U) Visa Record Make-Up:  Under INA 222(f), a "record" includes only information or documents pertaining to an individual visa applicant.  It does not include material from general instructions, visa manuals, or other similar documents which make no reference to individual named applicants.  Therefore, a "record" may consist of:

(1)  (U) Any document presented by an applicant in connection with a visa application and retained by you at the conclusion of a visa interview;

(2)  (U) Any item, which may have a bearing on the applicant's visa application, submitted to the visa section by the applicant, by other agencies, or by the Department, such as an AO; and

(3)  (U) Any item generated by the visa section dealing with the applicant's entitlement to visa status or ineligibility including, but not limited to:

(a)  (U) Correspondence with other posts about a visa;

(b)  (U) Correspondence with the applicant;

(c)  (U) Investigative reports;

(d)  (U) IV and NIV refusal worksheets; and

(e)  (U) The visa section's requests for AO from the Department.

c.  (U) See 9 FAM 601.6 for additional information on maintaining visa files, records, and information in a visa section.

9 FAM 603.1-3  (u) protecting visa files, records, and information

(CT:VISA-1424;   11-09-2021)

a. (U) Maintain Confidentiality of Visas Files, Records, and Information:

(1)  (U)INA 222(f) provides for the confidentiality of visa records.  As used in this context the designation “confidential” does not relate to the security classification of a document but rather to its releasability.  INA 222(f) requires that information contained in visa records: "shall be used only for the formulation, amendment, administration, or enforcement of the immigration, nationality, and other laws of the United States.”  Therefore, the focus for determining the releasability (see 9 FAM 603.2) of a given document (telegrams, memoranda, reports, and any other documentation relating to an identifiable applicant) from a visa file depends on whether its release provides any assistance in the administration or enforcement of U.S. law (whether Federal, State, or local), or whether release of information would breach the confidentiality provision of INA 222(f).  These restrictions also apply to direct quotations from information contained in visa records, to the visual inspection of such records, and to the disclosure of information from visa records.

(2)  (U) Visa sections may not release originals of an item in a visa record to a visa applicant nor allow the applicant to inspect the visa records except for civil documents.  Furthermore, the INA 222(f) requirement of confidentiality prohibits divulging, even on an oral basis, the verbatim text of cables, memoranda, reports, and other documents bearing on an applicant's case.

(3)  (U) See 9 FAM 603.2 for guidance on authorized releases of visa-related information.

b. Unavailable

c.  Unavailable

(1)  (U) Defining “Law Enforcement Sensitive” Information:

(a)  Unavailable

(b)  Unavailable

(2)  (U) Access to LES Information:

(a)  Unavailable

(b)  Unavailable

(3)  (U) Storage and Destruction of LES Information:

(a)  Unavailable

(b)  Unavailable

(4)  (U) Dissemination of “Law Enforcement Sensitive” Information:

(a)  Unavailable

(b)  Unavailable

(5)  Unavailable

(6)  Unavailable

d. (U) Protecting Other Agency Information:  

(1)  (U) Visa sections may not share protected information with a third party unless with proper written authorization from the originating agency, as spelled out in prevailing Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with other agencies.

(2)  (U) The Federal Information Security Modernization Act, Public Law 113-284 reformed the Federal Information Security Management (Act), which required Federal agencies adhere to certain information security standards for all information systems under their control.  This Act provides for additional information security controls to protect federal operations and assets.  Visa sections shall protect other agencies' information by requiring individual officer's acceptance of appropriate access agreements before being granted access. Information sharing, including national intelligence and related information, must be conducted in strict compliance with applicable laws, MOU terms, and statutes to ensure presence of all necessary infrastructure required to protect information from unauthorized disclosure. In compliance with 5 FAM 469.1, all Department workforce members must adhere to established rules of behavior governing the handling of protected information required for optimum performance of official duties.

(3)  (U) The guidance in 9 FAM 603.1-2 above instructs you to treat visa records as "confidential," for purposes of determining the individual record's "releasability" to a third party.  Once the Department obtains a record from another agency that pertains to the applicant's entitlement to visa status or ineligibility, that record is subject to INA 222(f) protections, if not otherwise classified or administratively controlled (per paragraph b, above).  Therefore, you must protect other agency information pertaining to visa applications as you would the Department's own records.