Name Checks and Special Registration
Legislative and administrative rules since 9/11 have resulted in numerous changes, including more personal interviews at US Consulates abroad, enhanced coordination of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, increased use of biometrics and machine readable documents, and restrictions on revalidation of visas from within the U.S. All of these changes have complicated the process of planning for overseas business travel and transfer of personnel.
The result of these changes is that the US government is now paying closer attention to factors that may affect a company’s ability to obtain timely processing of a visa application for a foreign-born applicant. These factors include:
- Applicant’s age;
- Applicant’s country of origin;
- Applicant’s field of expertise;
- Duties of the position offered;
- Nature of the sponsoring employer’s products or services.
Increased Security Checks for Males
Males between the ages of 16 and 45 must now complete an additional nonimmigrant visa application form when applying for visas from outside the US The form requests information about prior travel, educational history, and military service. The resulting security checks may may increase visa processing times from two (2) weeks to several months.
A name check is completed for every visa applicant. Since millions of names have been added to databses accessed by the US Department of State and US Department of Homeland Security, an applicant’s name can easily be identified as a hit. If this occurs, a post will request the applicant to appear and complete a full set of fingerprints to be analyzed by the FBI. Applicants with common names have been subject to significant delays based on false hits. Currently, there is no way to obtain a security check in advance of the application for a visa in order to avoid such delays.
After 10 September 2002, persons entering the US from designated “Middle Eastern” countries were required to be fingerprinted, photographed, and given a registration number, and to report again within 30 days and annually thereafter. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently suspended port of entry registration dfor all countries except Iraq, Iran, Libya and Sudan, while others could be designated on a case by case basis.
For persons already in the U.S. who had entered prior to 10 September 2002, a “call-in” registration commenced on 15 November 2002. The original group of affected countries was Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria, followed by Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Kuwait.
Due largely to findings that this blanket registration was costly and ineffective, DHS suspended the requirement that “call-in” registrants re-register annually and that port of entry registrants come to 30-day follow-up interviews, for all persons who otherwise would have been subject to certain other requirements on or after 2 December 2003. However, special registrants remain subject to certain other requirements: they must depart only from certain specially designated ports and complete “departure processing”. Also, like all other aliens residing in the US, they must report address changes within 10 days of such change, unless they are foreign students who have already submitted the address change through SEVIS, the foreign student tracking system.
Ortega-Medina & Associates is available to US employers plan for any possible visa processing delays with respect to a potential foreign worker or incoming transferee. Please contact us to discuss your specific matter.