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Impending K-1 Visa Reform to Make Applications

December 17, 2015

Last Tuesday, the United States House of Representatives passed a legislation that would bar potential immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan, or those who have visited those countries in the last five years, from entering the United States without a visa. The bill, which passed 407 to 19, also completely changed the visa program for people from those respective countries, as it placed restrictions on would-be visa waiver participants.

Now, congressmen and senators are looking at possibly changing the K-1 visa program by making it even more difficult for applicants in what is said to already be an extensive vetting process. This comes in reaction to the attacks on Paris in November and especially the shooting in San Bernardino, California, as FBI Director James Comey said the woman suspected of participating in the shooting was “radicalized” before she applied for her K-1 visa to come to the U.S.

Congress has acted quickly, as it often does, with the subject of national security is on the table. But the idea of making the vetting process rigorous could prove easier said than done, unless they continue the trend of barring people from the aforementioned countries. It is going to be difficult for congress to come up with a law that covers all of the bases given the ambiguity that always comes with these sorts of cases.

Congress has attempted this sort of reform before with the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS), which forced men from certain Arab and Muslim countries, such as Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan, who were already living in the U.S. to register with the government, get fingerprinted and update the government of their whereabouts for the duration of their stay. The program was put to a halt in 2011, showing that kind of thinking behind immigration reform will not work in the long term.

The NSEERS program was effectively ended in May 2011 after the DHS declared the registration process redundant, inefficient, unnecessary, and ineffective. The policy was a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and a false sense of urgency from a government shaken by the attacks and desperate for a national security policy they could reveal to the public. As a result, over 80,000 men underwent registration and thousands were subject to interrogation and detention. If they didn’t comply, they were forced to leave the country or other consequences whether they knew of the policy or not.

The only thing the NSEERS process was effective in doing was discriminating against ethnic groups, particularly those from Arab countries, and made racial profiling even more prominent than it was already. If the government attempts to reform their immigration policies again, it will likely have the same result. At this point, it is hard to imagine a policy that doesn’t simply result in racist behavior and redundancies in homeland security that drags out the process as opposed to making it more efficient for both security staff and immigrants.

Changes to the program appear to be imminent, as Congress is expected to find a way to make visa applications even more extensive in an attempt to “neutralize the threat from foreign terrorists entering our country,” as said by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

If you have questions about immigration and/or you need help in an immigration process, please contact The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA for a consultation. Our law firm handles various matters including Green Cards and Permanent Residence, family immigration, asylum cases, immigrant visas, non-immigrant visas, employment visas and H-1B visas, investors-visa, PERM applications and many more.

Additional Resources

1) Can the K-1 fiancé visa system be made more secure?, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/can-the-k-1-visa-system-be-more-secure/ , Kaplan, Rebecca, CBS News, Dec. 11, 2015
2) House passes visa waiver overhaul, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/08/politics/visa-waiver-program-house/ , Walsh, Deirdre, CNN.com, Dec. 8, 2015
3) The NSEERS Effect: A Decade of Racial Profiling, Fear, and Secrecy, http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/sites/default/files/RWGPenn_NSEERSReport_060412.pdf


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