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Reorganization of Immigration Processes and Enforcement Is Accompanied by New Visa Restrictions

  • June 19, 2003

On March 1, 2003, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was merged into the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At the same time, the INS was divided into three separate bureaus: (1) the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services ("BCIS") inherited the adjudication of visa petitions and naturalization applications; (2) the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ("BCBP") is now responsible for inspections at airports, sea ports, and land ports of entry, the former Border Patrol, the former Customs Service, and agricultural quarantine; and (3) the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("BICE") has assumed responsibility for the INS investigation and enforcement functions.

In parallel with this reorganization, the federal government has tightened up the operation of the entire visa system:

  • The Department of State has announced that, as of August 1, 2003, in person visa interviews will be required for a much higher percentage of non-immigrant visa applicants than in the past. As no new resources have been allocated to consulates for these interviews, it is anticipated there will be back-logs at many posts. Some consulates have begun to implement appointment systems to try to relieve this problem.
  • Affirmative FBI and CIA clearance is now required for visa issuance. If there is a delay or problem in obtaining such clearance, a visa applicant at a U.S. consulate may face an unexpected delay in traveling to the U.S.
  • BCIS is required to check all visa petitions against the Interagency Border Inspection System, which slows down the processing of visa petitions.
  • All aliens over the age of 14 are now required to file an AR-11 Change of Address Card with the Department of Homeland Security within 10 days of a change of address.
  • Citizens of 25 countries, primarily in the Middle East, who are in the United States on temporary visas are now required to complete Special Registration formalities on entering and departing the United States, as well as to update their registrations annually.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has announced that by January 1, 2004, it plans to begin implementing the U.S. Visit system at airports and seaports. This will scan a visitor's travel documents, take a photo and fingerprint of the visitor, and conduct an extensive search against a variety of databases to determine admissibility to the U.S.

In view of these developments, employers seeking visas for their foreign employees should plan international transfers as far in advance as possible. The continuing emphasis on enforcement suggests that it is prudent for employers periodically to audit their I-9 files to ensure that employment authorization verification is being conducted properly.

The Jackson Lewis Immigration Practice Group is available to answer questions regarding this issue and to provide services to employers regarding all immigration matters.

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