Barring Corrupt Officials from Entering the United States: A Guide to the Process

Since 2004 it has been American policy to deny entry into the United States of corrupt foreign officials and their immediate families. President George W.  Bush initiated the policy by presidential order, and in 2008 Congress added its voice, enacting legislation barring “foreign kleptocrats involved in the extraction of natural resources” from entering the United States.  Beginning in 2012, the Congressional ban was extended to include all those involved in “significant corruption,” and in 2014 the provision was expanded again to cover foreign officials involved in “a gross violation of human rights.” The following year Congress clarified that designations may be made publicly or privately.

The first public designation was made in 2018 (Albanian judge and prosecutor Adriatik Llalla), and since then more than 150 individuals from over 30 countries have been publicly barred from entry — either for corruption or human rights violations.  Although the State Department web site does not keep a running list of those who have been barred, the NGO Human Rights First does. A spreadsheet available on its website can be sorted by country, crime, date, and other fields and includes links to each State Department sanctions announcement. It is updated whenever new sanctions are announced

The Department encourage civil society activists, foreign diplomats, and others with information relevant to the designation process to contact it. The best way is through its personnel in the field as designations typically arise from recommendations made by U.S. embassy staff.

Two excellent descriptions and discussions of the visa denial policy by analysts at the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service are here and here.

The Human Right First spreadsheet, “U.S. Government Public Section 7031(c) Sanctions Designations to Date,” can be accessed here.

GAB contributor Daniel Binette’s recommendations for greater clarity in how visa denial decisions are made is here.

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