New DOS Rule Introducing 6 Month Visa Bond Pilot Program for B-1/B-2 Visa Applicants

On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of State published a temporary final rule in the Federal Register entitled, “Visas: Visa Bond Pilot Program.”

What is this rule about?

The final rule calls for the creation of a temporary 6-month visa bond pilot program that authorizes Consular officials at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide to mandate a bond of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 for certain B-1/B-2 visa applicants in order for them to receive visas and travel to the United States.

If a consular officer finds that a bond is appropriate, the amount of the bond will be determined by them based on the circumstances of the visa applicant.

According to the rule, “the Pilot Program is designed to apply to nationals of specified countries with high overstay rates to serve as a diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to take all appropriate actions to ensure their nationals timely depart the United States after making temporary visits.”

When does the final rule go into effect?

The final rule becomes effective December 24, 2020 through June 24, 2021 (period of 6 months).

Who will be impacted?

According to the final rule, visa applicants potentially subject to the Pilot Program include aliens who are applying for visas as temporary visitors for business or pleasure (B-1/B-2); are from countries with high visa overstay rates; and are already approved by DHS for an inadmissibility waiver.

Aliens traveling under the Visa Waiver Program fall outside the scope of the Pilot Program, since a visa application is not required for their entry to the United States.

Nationals from Countries with High Visa Overstay Rates are Vulnerable

This Visa Bond Pilot Program will apply only to B-1/B-2 visa applicants who are nationals of listed countries that have overstay rates of 10% or higher in the B-1/B-2 category, as reported in the DHS FY 2019 Overstay Report.

Such nationals include those from: Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Djibouti, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Laos, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

What is the likely impact of this new rule?

Majority of Consulates and Embassies have suspended routine visa services until further notice, meaning that appointments are already extremely limited for visa applicants across the board.  Furthermore, the likelihood of the next administration pursing this program/initiative is minimal.

Murray Osorio PLLC will continue to follow the enforcement of this new rule and provide updates as new information becomes available.

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