Green Cards (Common)
National Interest Waivers
Professors & Researchers
Executives & Managers
PERM Labor Certification
Investors (EB-5 visas)
Family (Spouse, etc.)
Work Visas (Common)
O-1 Extraordinary Ability
TN Canadians & Mexicans
J-1 Visa Holders
Nurses & Physical Therapists
Visa Restrictions and Backlogs Continue to Create Problems for Businesses
Adapted from AILA Connect! Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 5
Visa policies continue to make international travel and commerce a nightmare. In response to the growing public outcry from the business community, the House Small Business Committee recently held a hearing focusing on visa delays and the negative consequences for American business of the numerous visa restrictions implemented since September 11.
As described at the hearing, visa delays act as a trade barrier, discourage foreign visitors from coming to the U.S., have negative consequences for American companies, and do not increase security. Businesses have reported economic losses based on these backlogs, and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to send foreign national employees working in the United States out of the country for business or to attend conferences since their return trip could be delayed for months due to problems with visa issuance.
The committee heard examples of lengthy delays at both U.S. consulates abroad and at the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services. Many of these delays resulted from the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and of other agencies who screen visa applicants, to process security checks in a timely manner.
Although government agencies have cited security concerns when questioned about visa delays, security experts have suggested alternative actions that would not jeopardize the flow of foreign investors and critical personnel into the United States. Such alternatives include focusing our law enforcement efforts on investigation and surveillance based on individual suspicion, not over-reaching, time-consuming checks on every visa applicant.
At the second hearing, immigration advocates discussed the "culture of no" that pervades the visa adjudication procedure. This culture makes it easier for an adjudicator or consular officer to delay or deny a visa than to approve it. In fact, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of visas issued since 2001 for all visitors to the United States, from 6.9 million to 4.9 million. Similarly, visa applications have decreased 15% from 2002 to 2003.
Increased interview requirements that went into effect on August 1, 2003 also have contributed to the slowing of the visa issuance process. In addition, the pending requirement that by October 26, 2004, all citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must possess machine-readable passports (MRPs) in order to visit the U.S. under the VWP is expected to increase future delays significantly by further adding to the consulates’ workload.
Employers and international personnel should talk to their AILA attorney about how best to get their visa delay examples (anonymous or not) to key members of Congress. It is vital that U.S. businesses, large and small, speak out about the impact of these visa delays and urge Congress to step in and mandate action to ameliorate the delays.