As the summer holiday season approaches, many foreign nationals will be traveling abroad to visit family and friends.  We urge all foreign nationals to plan well in advance for possible delays that could impact exit from, and re-entry into, the United States. The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) entry and exit registration program, known as US-VISIT, impacts all non-immigrant visa holders exiting and entering the U.S.  Foreign nationals traveling to the United States have their two index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken to match and authenticate their travel documents at the port of entry.  This inspection process may result in delays.  Non-immigrant visa holders are also now required to use a kiosk to record their departure from the U.S.  Check-out procedures include the scanning of your visa or passport and repeating the inkless finger-scanning process.  The exit confirmation will be added to the foreign national’s travel records to demonstrate compliance with the terms of his or her admission.  These US-VISIT exit procedures are in place at most major airports in the U.S., but not all.  For a complete list of airports requiring exit procedures and for more information on the US-VISIT program, visit www.dhs.gov

For those foreign nationals who will need to apply for visa stamps at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad before returning to the U.S., visa issuance is no longer a simple, straightforward matter.  Department of State regulations now require mandatory personal appearances for most visa applicants.  In addition, security clearances are required before any visa can be issued.  Appointments at many of the embassies need to be scheduled well in advance, especially during the summer months, as many of the consulates are now reporting wait times of 30+ days.  In addition, once an individual appears at the consulate for the personal interview, it can take 30 days or more for the passport to be returned pending the result of all security clearances.

As always, we recommend that foreign nationals carefully inspect passports, visa stamps, and I-94 Departure Records to be sure that all documents are valid, bear the correct visa classification, and the correct validity dates.  Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the period of admission to the U.S.  The principal employee should also be sure to carefully inspect his or her family member’s documents.  Immigration and consular officials can and do make mistakes, so it is important that documents are reviewed before leaving the consulate or walking away from the inspection officer.

Upon re-entry into the U.S., foreign nationals should expect enhanced screening and questioning by immigration officers.  Identity and visa validity will be checked against law enforcement databases.  Applicants will be questioned about their immigration status, travel history, purpose of the visit, background, employment, and other issues.  Travelers should expect delays due to these security measures.  It is always best to remain patient, answer questions as clearly as possible, and ask for clarification if a question is misunderstood.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have foreign national employees who will be traveling abroad this summer and will need to apply for a new visa stamp before they return to the U.S.  We can provide the employee with a visa revalidation package that includes detailed instructions on scheduling the visa appointment, documents required for the appointment, fees, etc.