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Changes Pending for Business Visitor, Tourist, and Student Visas

On April 8, 2002, the INS announced several proposed changes to the visitor and student visa programs. These new policies are intended to give the agency more control over the programs that admit millions of immigrants into the U.S. each year.

These changes, which are subject to a public review period, include:

· Reducing the time a business traveler or visitor can stay in the U.S., from six months to the “time needed to accomplish the trip.” The INS seems to be using 30 days as a general guideline for this “time needed.”

· Visitors who wish to stay beyond 30 days would have to prove “unexpected” or “compelling” reasons for an extension – for example, the need for medical treatment in the U.S. or an unfinished business matter.

· Requiring immigrants who receive final deportation orders to turn themselves in to the INS within 30 days or lose any chance for appeal or asylum. It is estimated that about 90% of illegal immigrants ignore final deportation orders and remain in the U.S.

Two other changes are effective immediately:

First, any foreigner wishing to study in the U.S. must obtain a student visa before starting classes, and must notify the INS of their intent before entering the country. This will allow the government more time to conduct security checks. Second, it will be more difficult for a visitor visa holder to switch to a student visa.

The INS is allowing for a 30 day public review period for the new rules for the visitor visa (B-1 and B-2) program. Barring any changes, these new regulations should take effect in early May, 2002.

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