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Immigration after September 11, 2001
By Robert Brown, Immigration Lawyer
The United States Government has undertaken several measures to counter terrorist activity, and to ensure safe and secure travel in the United States following the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Summary of the Recent Immigration Changes Program to End Student Visa abuse: The United States will implement a program to end abuses of student visas and will prohibit certain international students from receiving education and training in sensitive areas, including areas of study with direct application to the development and use of weapons of mass destruction. The State department will attempt to identify sensitive courses of study, problematic applicants and deny their visas.Extended Waiting Period: The United States Department of State has announced that beginning in the very near future, all men between ages 16 and 45 from countries with large Arab and Muslim populations will be subject to a longer waiting period on non-immigrant visa applications.
This move, adding an additional period of up to 20 days to the application process, is intended to allow the United States Department of State to cross check applicants names with the FBI's terrorism databases. Secretary Powell said he hoped the measures would be temporary.New Security Screening: Applicants subject to the new security screening will also be required to complete a new background questionnaire form that will cover previous military service and weapons training, previous travels and whether the applicant has previously had any other passports.Increased Scrutiny at INS Ports of Entry and Consular Posts: Given the increased scrutiny at INS ports of entry and United States consular posts overseas and substantial delays, employers and foreign workers or visitors now in the United States should decide whether travel abroad is absolutely necessary, at least in the near future. In addition, it is more important than ever to make sure that the alien has all necessary immigration information readily available, and to ensure maintaining proper legal status while in the United States. Expanded List of Countries: The State Department is considering to expand the number of countries subject to the new visa restrictions beyond the countries included on the list of countries that sponsor or support terrorist activities. The new list of countries reportedly includes the following:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.Changes in Photograph Requirements: The United States Department of State has revised its photograph requirements. A full-face photograph is required. Head coverings and hats are only acceptable due to religious beliefs, and even then, may not obscure any portion of the applicants face. A photograph depicting a person wearing a traditional facemask or veil that does not permit adequate identification is not acceptable.Closure of the United States Embassy in Yemen: The United States Embassy in Yemen has been closed for security reasons. The Yemen post anticipates processing only American citizens on a limited basis through the end of November. The Post is hopeful to restart processing immigrant and non-immigrant visas on a limited basis in December. The Yemen post is exploring the possibility of transferring any time sensitive age out cases to other posts such as Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.Comprehensive bill dealing with Visa Issuance and Border Control: The house of representatives has passed the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (H.R. 3535) calling for more funding to provide for increase in the number of INS inspectors and investigators, and pay raises for inspectors and border patrol agents. The bill would provide an additional $150 million for technological improvements to ports of entry, and raise the machine-readable visa fee from $45 to $65.
The bill also seeks modification in the Interagency Information Sharing Plan created in the US Patriot act passed last month. The modification calls for creation of electronically maintained visa files that will be available to immigration inspectors, for the creation of an automated entry-exit system and of machine readable, tamper resistant entry documents. State Department Modifies Immigrant Visa Process: The State Department recently eliminated Packets 1, 2 and 4, which were mailed to notify immigration applicants of their consulate interview. This change comes in the wake of immense technology gains in the last 40 years. The changes are made to avoid confusion through the numbering system. Packet 3 has been renamed “Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants.” What was formerly Packet 4 will now be called “Appointment Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants.” Forms are also being renamed and in some cases, modified.
Robert Brown, author of this article, is a highly experienced immigration attorney in private practice. Attorney Brown served with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1972 to 1999. He served thirteen years as INS District Director, and eight years as Chair of the INS Directors' Association. You may reach Attorney Brown at www.VisaPro.com/ConsultAttorney.asp
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