The Trump administration is considering moving the issuance of visas, passports and other travel documents from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report commissioned by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson aimed at slashing the State Department’s budget by a third.
The move would provide “an opportunity to elevate efficiency and reduce cost,” according to recommendations in the report by private consulting firm Insigniam.
The State Department oversees the issuance of 10 million visas per year at consulates around the world, and such a change would represent a seismic shift in resources and agency functions.
Jeffrey Gorsky, Senior Counsel in BAL’s Washington, D.C. office, who previously headed the Legal Advisory Opinion section of the State Department’s Visa Office, said that the change would likely require Congressional approval, and, if implemented, could mean that visa decisions could be subject to judicial review. Currently, consular decisions on whether to grant or deny visas fall under the doctrine of non-reviewability and cannot be reviewed by a court.
In addition to the cost-cutting rationale, the report said that giving DHS authority over visa issuance would “elevate security at our borders.” Gorsky, however, said that enhanced security screening measures since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have largely negated this argument.
BAL Analysis: BAL is following this proposal and will report on any significant developments that could affect changes in how visas and other travel documents are issued. While there appears to be support in part of the administration for transferring these functions from the State Department to DHS, the likely need for Congressional action makes this transfer unlikely at this time.
This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact BerryApplemanLeiden@bal.com.
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