On September 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of State amended its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), with a new directive regarding “misrepresentation” as it relates to foreign nationals in the U.S. “who conduct themselves in a manner inconsistent with representations they made to consular officers concerning their intentions at the time of visa application or to Department of Homeland Security when applying for admission or for an immigration benefit.” The conduct most commonly deemed “inconsistent with representations made to consular officers” is filing for adjustment of status to permanent residency shortly after arriving in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa, but also includes other conduct not authorized by one’s nonimmigrant visa, such as engaging in unauthorized study or employment, application for certain benefits, or marrying a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
The new subsection in FAM instructs adjudicating officers: “If a [foreign national] violates or engages in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status within 90 days of entry . . . you may presume that the applicant’s representations about engaging in only status-compliant activity were willful misrepresentations of his or her intention in seeking a visa or entry.” This 90-Day Rule replaces the previous rule which held that, if a foreign national engaged in “conduct inconsistent with representations” (for example, applying for adjustment of status) within the first 30 days after entering the U.S. under a nonimmigrant status, the presumption would be that the foreign national had willfully misrepresented their intention when applying for a nonimmigrant visa. However, if the “inconsistent conduct” occurred more than 30 days but less than 60 days after the foreign national’s arrival, there would be no presumption either for or against a supposition of willful misrepresentation, and, if the conduct occurred more than 60 days after arrival, it would be presumed that there had been no willful misrepresentation. Under the new rule, “conduct inconsistent” within 90 days of arrival invokes an automatic presumption that the foreign national willfully misrepresented him or herself in obtaining his or her nonimmigrant visa.
This constitutes a major change in the regulations governing perceived misrepresentation with far reaching potential effects. Per 212(a)(6)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a foreign national found to have willfully misrepresented him/herself for the purpose of gaining a visa or admission to the U.S. is subject to a permanent ban on entry into the U.S. Although applicants are permitted to rebut a presumption of misrepresentation, the burden of proof falls upon the applicant to “establish that his or her true intent at the time of the presumptive willful misrepresentation was permissible in his or her nonimmigrant status.”