Breaking News: US Supreme Court says US citizens can’t sue over foreign spouses’ visa denials!!!

In this video and blog post, we discuss a recent Supreme Court decision finding that U.S. Citizens do not have a fundamental right in having their noncitizen spouses admitted to the United States.

What is this ruling all about?

Department of State v. Muñoz

On June 21, 2024, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in Department of State v. Muñoz that U.S. citizens petitioning for their foreign spouses do not have a constitutional liberty interest in their spouses being admitted to the country.

What’s worse, the court upheld the doctrine of consular nonreviewability, which says that there can be no judicial review of a consular officer’s decision finding a visa applicant inadmissible, except in a very limited class of constitutional cases.

About the Case

The plaintiff in the case, Sandra Muñoz, married her husband, a Salvadoran citizen in 2010, and shared a U.S. Citizen child with him. Thereafter, her husband applied for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate in El Salvador so that they could live together in the United States and sought a waiver of inadmissibility. He denied having any gang affiliations despite being heavily tattooed.

After undergoing several interviews, the consular officer denied his application, citing §1182(a)(3)(A)(ii), a provision that renders inadmissible a noncitizen whom the officer “knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in” certain specified offenses or “any other unlawful activity.”

The plaintiff’s husband assumed that he had been denied a visa based upon the erroneous finding that he was a member of the gang MS-13. He denied being a member and requested the Consulate to reconsider its findings.

After the consulate refused, they appealed to the Department of State, which ultimately agreed with the consulate’s determination.

The couple then sought Congressional intervention and sued the State Department, claiming that they violated the plaintiff’s constitutional liberty interest in her husband’s visa application by failing to give a sufficient reason why he was inadmissible under the “unlawful activity” bar.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the State Department, but the Ninth Circuit appellate court vacated the judgment, holding that the plaintiff had a constitutionally protected liberty interest in her husband’s visa application.

There, the court said the due process clause required the State Department to provide a reason for the denial. It also held that by declining to give the plaintiff further information as to the reason for the denial, the State Department could not prevent its decision from being subject to judicial review under the doctrine of consular nonreviewability.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

The case recently reached the Supreme Court of the United States which reversed and remanded the judgment of the Ninth Circuit, finding that the plaintiff had no fundamental interest in her husband being admitted to the United States.

While the court recognized that the plaintiff suffered harm from the denial of her husband’s immigrant visa application, they held that the harm did not give her a constitutional right to participate in his consular proceeding.

It also held that the Consular officer’s decision could not be subject to judicial review under the doctrine of consular nonreviewability.

What does the Supreme Court’s ruling mean for U.S. Citizens and their foreign spouses?

Unfortunately, this means that U.S. Consulates and Embassies retain broad discretionary power to refuse the admission of a foreign spouse to the United States. With its ruling, the Supreme Court has made clear that marriage to a U.S. Citizen does not entitle, nor guarantee U.S. admission to a foreign national.

This raises serious concerns including the possibility for abuse by consular officials and devastating consequences for U.S. Citizens such as prolonged family separation.

Impact on Same Sex Couples

Furthermore, as Justice Sotomayor stated in her dissent, the court’s decision will have drastic consequences on same-sex couples whose right to marry is not recognized in third countries.

“Muñoz may be able to live in El Salvador alongside her husband or at least visit him there, but not everyone is so lucky. The majority’s holding will also extend to those couples who, like the Lovings and the Obergefells, depend on American law for their marriages’ validity. Same-sex couples may be forced to relocate to countries that do not recognize same-sex marriage, or even those that criminalize homosexuality. American husbands may be unable to follow their wives abroad if their wives’ countries of origin do not recognize derivative immigration status from women.”

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez and Judy Chu who advocated for the couple to remain together, denounced the decision stating that they will continue to fight for the plaintiff’s family and all others similarly situated.

In a joint statement they said, “We will continue to work with affected families and advocates to determine all the consequences of this decision and fight for comprehensive, humane immigration reform that finally fixes our broken system.”

What you can do to prevent a denial

To avoid such a tragic situation, it is very important for married couples to adequately prepare for their in-person interview, where the Consular officer will not only question the bona fides of the marriage, but also scrutinize the individual’s appearance including tattoos, piercings, and markings. Foreign spouses must be well-prepared and ready to face challenges, in such a case where their tattoos may be misinterpreted as having a gang affiliation.


No matter the situation, our team is committed to helping you and your family remain together in the United States. If you are preparing to petition for your spouse’s permanent residence or immigrant visa, we invite you to contact us for a consultation. We look forward to serving you.

For more information, please check out our helpful links below.

Contact Us. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.

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