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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a final rule significantly expanding the group of foreign nationals required to have their biometrics information collected under the US-VISIT program when traveling to and from the United States. Established in 2003, US-VISIT records biographic and biometric information to conduct security checks and verify the identities of international visitors to the United States.

Beginning January 18, 2009, U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs), i.e., "green card" holders, Canadian citizens required to obtain a Form I-94 upon entry, immigrant visa holders, foreign nationals paroled into the United States and foreign nationals entering under the Guam Visa Waiver Program, will now be required to have their fingerprints scanned and a digital photograph taken upon arrival in the United States. Nonimmigrant visa holders and foreign nationals traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program will continue to be subject to US-VISIT requirements.

Foreign nationals exempt from the US-VISIT requirements include persons under the age of 14 or over the age of 79 and visitors admitted in certain A, G and NATO diplomatic and official visa categories. Canadian citizens seeking short-term admission for business or pleasure are also exempt. Those Canadian citizens currently entering the U.S. pursuant to a valid, multiple-entry Form I-94 will be required to undergo US-VISIT procedures at the time of their I-94 renewal.

DHS notes that US-VISIT is now operational for entry at 115 airports, 15 seaports and 154 land border ports of entry. There are currently no exit procedures in place, but DHS expects to institute them in the future. Foreign nationals who fail to comply with US-VISIT procedures may be deemed inadmissible to the United States.

We encourage all of our foreign national clients subject to the US-VISIT program, especially LPRs now subject for the first time, to expect additional border processing delays. We will continue to provide you with the latest US-VISIT developments. In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding how this new final rule might impact your international travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.