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Posts Tagged ‘Tourist Visa

Two Recent Changes in US Immigration Law

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 Two major changes  that have taken place in January 2009 with respect to non-US citizens and International Tourists from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Countries arriving to or departing from the United States are:

(1) International visitors from VWP countries like United Kingdom now require to obtain a “pre-clearance” prior to initiating travel to the United States; and

(2) Expansion of the US-Visit program, which requires all non-US Citizens to provide biometrics upon arrival in, or departure from, the United States at air or sea ports of entry.  

For more details,  see our attorney, Hanishi Ali’s article published here: http://www.lokvani.com/lokvani/article.php?article_id=5499

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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.

US Immigration Requires all International Visitors from the Visa Waiver Program Countries to Pre-register Online at Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) from January 12th 2009

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Begining tomorrow, January 12th, 2009, all nationals and citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who plan to travel to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure for 90 days or less under the VWP will be required by law to obtain an online travel authorization prior to initiating travel to the United States under the VWP.  For a list of the over 30 VWP countries see our earlier post.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an online system used to determine eligibility for visitors intending to travel to the United States under the VWP. It requires the same information as the I-94W form that VWP visitors fill out en route to the US.  Typically, the traveler must provide biographical data including name, birth date, and passport information, as well as answers to questions regarding eligibility to travel under the VWP.

The authorization is to be obtained online through the ESTA, which is a free Internet application available in 16 languages and administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The automated system is now accessibile online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

The electronic travel authorization is being implemented to enhance the security of the VWP and to assess whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.

Airlines and border control officials are concerned that many passengers are not aware of the new United States immigration requirements for VWP countries and this could lead to chaos at the airports.  US Customs and Border Protection also confirmed that while there are more than four million visits to the United States each year, just over 240,000 have filled out the online Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) which replaces United States’ green visa waiver entry form. 

Kelly Klundt of the US Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Public Affairs has said that The Department of Homeland Security will take a reasonable approach to those travelers not in compliance with the travel authorisation requirement, but, travelers who do not obtain an ESTA should be aware that they may be refused boarding, or experience delayed processing, or be denied admission upon arrival in the United States.

Written by MithrasLaw

January 12, 2009 at 1:28 am

Hungary President stops short of promulgating Visa Waiver Agreement

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After the announcement of Hungary joining the USA Visa Waiver program, Hungarian President László Sólyom returned the recently adopted law on sharing criminal data with the United States government to the Hungarian Parliament for reconsideration without signing it.  One of the prime conditions for a country to join the USA visa waiver program is for that country to share with the United States government criminal data information about its nationals visiting the USA.  

While the Hungarian parliament can effectively bypass Mr. Sólyom’s veto by repassing the law, the delay in the law being promulgated can cause a delay in Hungary’s formal entry into the Visa Waiver program.

Some interesting perspectives on this can be found here and here.

Written by MithrasLaw

October 24, 2008 at 8:36 pm

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