The United States Government has discontinued issuance of certain visas for citizens of Laos and nationals applying in Laos after a disagreement regarding the deportation of Lao nationals.
According to a notice posted on the US Embassy in Laos website, as of 1 April 2020, the US Government has discontinued issuance of all immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for Lao citizens and nationals applying in Laos, except for certain types [listed in the notice] and others whose travel is covered by Section 11 of the UN Headquarters Agreement, subject to limited exceptions.
The action was taken pursuant to section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The notice states that the Secretary of Homeland Security has notified the Secretary of State that Laos denies or unreasonably delays accepting the return of its citizens, subjects, nationals or residents subject to final orders of removal from the United States, and the Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in Laos to discontinue granting all nonimmigrant visas for Lao citizens and nationals applying in Vientiane, with limited exceptions.
The notice continues, however, that should an individual submit a visa application after 1 April 2020, the consular section will proceed with an interview. However, a consular officer will not be able to issue a visa to applicants subject to the Secretary’s order until visa issuance is resumed.
Once these sanctions have been lifted, the Embassy may issue nonimmigrant visas to eligible visa applicants.
Consular operations at the US Embassy in Vientiane will continue. These visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension.
Countries that refuse or unreasonably delay accepting the return of their nationals who have been ordered removed from the United States are labeled “recalcitrant.”
According to a Memorandum on Visa Sanctions issued by the White House:
“The Secretary of Homeland Security shall notify the Secretary of State, pursuant to section 243(d) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1253(d), if any government of a foreign country denies or unreasonably delays the acceptance of aliens who are citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents of that country after being asked to accept those aliens, and if such denial or delay is impeding operations of the Department of Homeland Security necessary to respond to the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2.”
In July 2018, the Trump administration ordered the suspension of the issuance of visas to certain citizens of Laos after the country refused to take back its persons deported from the United States.
The US Department of Homeland Security said it had ordered the State Department to sanction visas for Laos and Myanmar because the two countries “denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed.”
During the Obama administration, the Lao government accepted several deported nationals, however, President Trump has taken a tougher stance on immigration, leading to increased pressure on many countries to accept deportees.