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US-VISIT rule Expands Categories of Non-U.S. Citizens Required to Provide Biometrics

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program (US-VISIT) in 2004 to verify the identities and travel documents of aliens. Aliens subject to US-VISIT may be required to provide finger scans, photographs, or other biometric identification upon arrival at the United States, at sea or air ports of entry, while on a nonimmigrant visa.

The new US-VISIT rule, which became effective only this week on January 18th 2009, expands the categories of non-U.S. citizens required to provide biometrics who will be subject to US-VISIT requirements to nearly all aliens, including lawful permanent residents (LPRs). Exceptions include Canadian citizens seeking short-term admission for business or pleasure under B visas and those especially exempt.

The following additional non-U.S. citizens will now be required to provide biometrics when entering or re-entering the United States:

  • Lawful permanent residents of the United States (LPRs);
  • Persons entering the United States who seek admission on immigrant visas;
  • Persons entering the United States who seek admission as refugees and asylees;
  • Canadian citizens who are currently required to obtain a Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) upon entry or who require a waiver of inadmissibility to enter the United States (this excludes most Canadian citizens entering the United States for purposes of shopping, visiting friends and family, vacation or short business trips);
  • Persons paroled into the United States; and
  • Persons applying for admission under the Guam VWP.

The US-VISIT program’s aim is to further secure the borders of the United States, prevent aliens from assuming other’s identities, and/or illegally enter the United States. Under the US-VISIT program, the arrival and departure of aliens is documented by fingerprint scans, photo identification, or other biometric identification in order to compare identities of the aliens as well as verify their travel documents so that with this information, ports of entry can cross reference government information to determine suspected terrorists, known criminals, or individuals who have violated immigration laws.

Other practical information with respect to procedures and processing:

  • Canadians applying for admission to the United States under a B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant classification for business or pleasure, which represents most Canadian travelers to the United States, are exempt and not required to enroll in US-VISIT at this time.
  • Canadian citizens who must now enroll in US-VISIT are those issued a Form I-94 (Arrival Departure Record), including: Canadians applying for admission in the following nonimmigrant classifications: C, D, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, Q 1, Q 3, R, S, T, TN; and Canadians who are granted a waiver of inadmissibility to enter the United States.
  • Canadians requiring issuance of Form I-94 are already referred to secondary inspection. Therefore, no additional wait time will be added.
  • H-1B visa holders will follow existing protocols and will be screened through US-VISIT when applying for a new multiple entry Form I-94 or when referred to secondary inspection for other reasons.
  • At seaports, LPRs returning from a closed loop cruise (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the United States) will be exempt from US-VISIT processing. LPRs returning to the United States from an “open” cruise will be subject to US-VISIT processing.
  • Non-U.S. citizens entering or re-entering the United States at a land border port of entry will be processed differently, at the inspecting officer’s discretion:
    1. LPRs will provide biometrics only if they are referred to secondary inspection.
    2. All other non-U.S. citizens included in this final rule—unless specifically exempt—will experience USVISIT procedures during secondary inspection, just as most non-U.S. citizens already subject to USVISIT procedures currently do (e.g., those who require a Form I-94).
  • Non-U.S. citizens who seek admission with Border Crossing Cards and who do not have a Form I-94 will still go through US-VISIT procedures, at the discretion of the inspecting officers.

If you have been subject to the expanded US-VISIT rule (after January 18th 2009) and would like to share your experience with others please feel free to comment.

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One Response

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  1. A nice article on immigration reform can be found at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_04/b4117065491348.htm, discussing why comprehensive immigration reform is not coming anytime soon.

    Brett Schulz

    January 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm


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