The Department of State (DOS) issued a final rule effective November 2, 2015 updating its regulations regarding the nonimmigrant visa format and record retention procedures found at 22 CFR §41.114, which currently provides for the placement of a nonimmigrant visa stamp in the foreign national’s passport.

The DOS has now amended the regulation to reflect the current practice of issuing machine-readable visas on adhesive foils that are affixed to passports. The updated regulation also allows for the planned future practice of issuing such visas as electronic visas that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will be able to access via an electronic database after scanning the machine readable are of the visa holder’s passport to verify the foreign national’s biometrics and identity. Finally, the regulation has been amended to remove DOS procedures regarding visa review and file retention instructions found in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

The DOS’ final rule, available at the Federal Register, is in compliance with regulatory requirements including the Administrative Procedure Act and the applicable Executive Orders. The amendment is issued as a final rule as it is not subject to notice-and-comment rulemaking. The Department of State has certified that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities; rather, only individual foreign nationals seeking consideration for nonimmigrant visas and foreign officials regulating the relevant documentation will be affected. Additionally, DOS does not consider the rule to be an economically significant rulemaking action, and is not aware of any monetary effect (including any increase in costs or prices) due to the update.

The amendments to 22 CFR §41.114 account for useful updates in technology that affect nonimmigrant visa holders. It remains to be seen exactly how the information contained in the electronic visa database available to CBP now provided for in the regulation will be accessible to other stakeholders, including employers.