CBP Begins Pilot Program to Collect DNA from Some Migrants

On January 6, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) initiated a pilot program to assess the operational impact of proposed regulatory changes that would require the collection of DNA samples from certain individuals in CBP custody.  This “limited, small-scale pilot program” will last 90-days in only two locations: the U.S. Border Patrol in the Detroit Sector and the Office of Field Operations at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry in Southwestern Texas.   In late October 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to amend regulations to mandate DNA collection for almost anyone detained, even temporarily, while crossing at official entry points.  This proposed amendment would significantly expand CBP officials’ power to collect DNA samples, which was previously only permitted for migrants prosecuted in federal court for criminal offenses.  Additionally, this proposed amendment would remove a provision that authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to exempt certain aliens from whom the collection of DNA samples was previously not feasible due to operational exigencies or resource limitations.  Further, it restores the Attorney General’s absolute legal authority to authorize and direct all relevant federal agencies to collect DNA samples from individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted, and from non-U.S. persons who are detained under […]
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Iranian Nationals Undergoing Increased Scrutiny at Ports of Entry

Iranian nationals are increasingly hesitant to travel after dozens of Iranian citizens were held by U.S. immigration agents at the Canadian border in Washington state this past weekend.  On Saturday, January 4, 2020, dozens of Iranians and Iranian-Americans were held for hours in secondary screening at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington.  It is estimated upwards of 60 travelers, many returning home to the United State from work trips or vacations, were held for additional questioning about their political views and allegiances.  Most of the detained travelers were released following the extra scrutiny, however some were denied entry into the United States.  Many of the detained travelers, who wish to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said that after checking their documents, border officials would bring them inside the port to a room filled with other Iranians and Iranian-Americans.  Many also faced similar questions regarding their background, citizenship, military experience, travel history to Iran, and details about their parents and siblings, including dates of birth and employment.  Matt Leas, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), disputed the accounts from advocacy groups that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a directive to detain those with Iranian heritage entering the […]
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DHS Publishes Final Rule Adjusting Student and Exchange Visitor Program Fees

On May 22, 2019, the DHS has reported that the fees charged by SEVP (the Student and Exchange Visitor Program) to international students, exchange visitors and SEVP- certified schools will be increased beginning June 24, 2019. SEVP does not receive any funding from Congress and solely relies on fees to continue operations; therefore, the increase is necessary to continue to provide oversight of international students and SEVP-certified schools. The increase will affect the following: The I-901 SEVIS Fee for F and M international students (from $200 to $350). The I-901 SEVIS Fee for J exchange visitors (from $180 to $220). Except: exchange visitors in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program participant categories. The SEVP school certification petition fee for initial certification (from $1,700 to $3,000). Also, SEVP will charge new fees for the following: A petition for recertification filed by SEVP-certified schools ($1,250). A form I-290B “Notice of Appeal of Motion” filed by schools ($675). A change of physical location or adding a new physical location or campus to Form I-17 “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student” by a SEVP-certified school ($655). If you are an international student or exchange visitor and […]
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I-94 Record Goes Alphanumeric

The I-94 is the Arrival/Departure Record Card that the United States government uses to keep track of the arrivals and departures of foreign nationals. Beginning May 2019, CBP is no longer using the 11-digit long number for the I-94 and is instead switching to alphanumeric I-94 numbers. The number will remain 11 characters, but will follow the format of 9 digits, followed by a letter in the 10thposition, and a digit in the 11thposition. Foreign visitors no longer need to complete the paper I-94 Arrival/Departure Record or I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record. The CBP arrival/departure record can be accessed and retrieved online through the CBP.gov website. A paper form I-94 will still be issued at land border ports of entry. All paper I-94 forms must be surrendered upon departure. For automatic I-94 forms, CBP will record the departure electronically. If you are coming to the United States and have questions about the electronic I-94 form, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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New Social Media Presence Question on DS-160 & DS-260 for U.S. Visa Applicants

If you are applying for your nonimmigrant or immigrant U.S. visa abroad, you will likely notice a new question on the DS-160 and DS-260 applications. This new question asks for the applicant’s username and handle for any social media or online presence within the last five years. It specifically requests the information for more than 20 social media outlets including: ASK.FM DOUBAN FACEBOOK FLICKR GOOGLE+ INSTAGRAM LINKEDIN MYSPACE PINTEREST QZONE (QQ) REDDIT SINA WEIBO TENCENT WEIBO TUMBLR TWITTER TWOO VINE VKONTAKTE (VK) YOUKU YOUTUBE It is mandatory that this question is answered – it cannot be skipped. The password for each account does not need to be given. The U.S. Department of State has noted that this information will be collected and used for “identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards.” If you have questions on obtaining a U.S. visa or the application process, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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Prepare Now for Upcoming Changes to ID Requirements for Domestic Air Travel

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to establish minimum security standards for state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses. The provisions of this act have been phased in over time but will be fully enforced beginning Oct. 1, 2020. For New York residents, this means that starting October 1, 2020, a REAL ID or higher form of identification will be required to fly domestically. Suitable identification includes an enhanced license or passport. Residents enrolled in travel programs, including TSA Precheck, NEXIS, Global Entry and SENTRI do not need a REAL ID. For New York residents who only hold a standard driver’s license, now is the time to act to ensure the ability to fly domestically and enter secure federal buildings and military bases once this change takes effect. An application for a REAL ID or enhanced license requires an in-person visit to a local Department of Motor Vehicles Office. For individuals who hold a valid New York driver’s license with a current address that is not up for renewal, a REAL ID can be obtained with the current license, proof of Social Security number (i.e. Social Security car or W-2), and two proofs of state residency […]
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President Trump’s Travel Ban Two Years Later

What is commonly referred to as the “travel ban” or “Muslim ban” is the product of three executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in 2017 and 2018. Each executive order met a number of legal challenges in the federal court system, but ultimately, the third version of the order was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2018. Recently, January 27, 2019 marked the two-anniversary of the travel ban, and today, the ban remains in full effect. The effect of the travel ban is to indefinitely suspend the issuance of immigrant and non-immigrant visas to foreign nationals of often Muslim-majority countries, specifically Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela. The government claims that the reasons for excluding immigrants from these seven countries are poor cooperation with U.S. officials, terrorist activity and the failure to properly document travelers. There are a few, rare exceptions to the travel ban. For instance, students from Iran and Libya are still able to acquire student visas. But otherwise, foreign nationals from the banned countries will only be able to enter the United States if they are granted a waiver. The travel ban provides for a waiver where a visa applicant can […]
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