Mark A Ivener, A Law Corporation

US-VISIT Procedures Expanded to Additional Travelers

Under a Department of Homeland Security final rule effective January 18, 2009, all non-U.S. citizens, except Canadians applying for admission to the U.S. as B-1/B-2 visitors for business or pleasure and those specifically exempted, must follow US-VISIT procedures when entering the U.S.

US-VISIT requires noncitizens to be photographed and fingerprinted so that appropriate databases can be checked. In many cases, this process begins overseas at a U.S. visa-issuing post, where a traveler’s biometrics—digital fingerprints and a photograph—are collected and checked against a watch list of known criminals and suspected terrorists. When the traveler arrives in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security collects the same biometrics to verify that the person at the port of entry is the same person who received the visa. Immigration officials use this information to help them make visa-issuance and admission decisions as part of the visa application process or entry inspection.

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

  • Lawful permanent residents of the United States (LPRs);
  • Persons entering the U.S. who seek admission on immigrant visas;
  • Persons entering the U.S. 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 U.S. (this excludes most Canadian citizens entering the U.S. for purposes of shopping, visiting friends and family, vacation or short business trips);
  • Persons paroled into the U.S.; and
  • Persons applying for admission under the Guam VWP.

Also as of January 18, 2009:

  • Canadians applying for admission to the U.S. under a B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant classification for business or pleasure, which represents most Canadian travelers to the U.S., are not required to enroll in US-VISIT.
  • Canadian citizens who must now enroll in US-VISIT are those issued an I-94, 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 U.S.
  • H-1B visa holders will follow existing protocols and will be screened through US-VISIT when applying for a new multiple entry 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 U.S.) are exempt from US-VISIT processing. LPRs returning to the U.S. from an “open” cruise are subject to US-VISIT processing.
  • Non-U.S. citizens entering or re-entering the U.S. at a land border port of entry will be processed somewhat differently, as follows, at the inspecting officer’s discretion:
    • LPRs will provide biometrics only if they are referred to secondary inspection.
    • All other non-U.S. citizens included in this final rule, unless specifically exempt, will experience US-VISIT procedures during secondary inspection, just as most non-U.S. citizens already subject to US-VISIT procedures currently do (e.g., those who require an I-94).
  • Non-U.S. citizens who seek admission with Border Crossing Cards and who do not have an I-94 will still go through US-VISIT procedures, at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

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About the Author

Mark A. Ivener, A Law Corporation, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.