Integrity Legal

9th July 2010

In a recent announcement from the American Department of State it was revealed that those agencies tasked with issuing US visas are to add security features to American travel documents issued to foreign nationals. To quote the announcement as posted on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website:

This public notice announces an amendment to the Biometric Visa Program. Section 303 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 has required, since October 26, 2004, that all visas issued by the Department must be machine-readable and tamper-resistant and use biometric identifiers. In consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department determined that fingerprints and a photo image should be required as biometric identifiers. When the biometric visa program began, available technology allowed for the efficient capture and comparisons of only two fingerscans. As a result of technological improvements, the Department instituted a ten fingerscan standard to raise the accuracy rate in matching fingerscans and enhanced our ability to detect and thwart persons who are eligible for visas.

As implied above, the Department of States is not the only American agency which will have a role in creating more effective security enhancements for American visas. The Department of Homeland Security will also play a part in this important endeavor. To further quote the announcement posted on the AILA website:

In establishing the Biometric Visa Program, the Department coordinated closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Biometric Visa Program is a partner program to the DHS US-VISIT Program that is in effect at U.S. ports of entry and that uses the same biometric identifiers. By coordinating these two programs, the two departments have ensured the integrity of the U.S. visa. This is accomplished by sending the fingerscans and photos of visa applicants to DHS databases. When a person to whom a visa has been issued arrives at a port of entry, his or her photo is retrieved from a database and projected on the computer screen of the Customs and Border Protection officer. The person’s fingerscans are compared to the fingerscans in the database to ensure that the person presenting the visa is the same as the person to whom the visa was issued.

The new security features are likely be used for visa categories such as the K1 visa, the K3 Visa, and the common US Family Immigrant visas (CR1 Visa, IR1 visa) not to mention the non-immigrant visa categories such as the B1 visa and the B2 visa. That said, it seems unlikely that this will have an adverse impact upon those who seek a US visa in compliance with relevant US law.

Although the full-scale implementation of this program has yet to take effect, there are many who feel that more effective security measures will help ensure that there will be less fraud perpetrated against the United States government by foreign nationals wishing to illegally enter the USA.

For further information specifically related to US Consular Processing in Thailand please see: US Embassy Thailand.


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