BCIS Eliminates Certain Circuit Ride Locations for Asylum / NACARA 203 Applicants

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) has released a notice to inform asylum applicants and individuals applying for relief under section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA 203) of changes in certain interview locations. This notice specifically relates to the Chicago, Illinois and Houston, Texas Asylum offices.

As of May 3, 2004 the BCIS will eliminate two circuit ride locations related to its Houston Asylum office: Harlingen, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Cincinnati, Ohio and Lousville, Kentucky circuit ride locations, both related to the BCIS Chicago Asylum office, will also be eliminated.

Houston Asylum Office: All asylum and NACARA 203 applicants who live within the jurisdiction of the BCIS District Office in Harlingen, Texas, will now have their asylum and/or NACARA 203 interviews conducted at the Houston Asylum Office.

In addition, all asylum and NACARA 203 applicants who live reside within the jurisdiction of the BCIS District Office in New Orleans, Louisiana, with the exception of those living in either Arkansas, Tennessee or Mississippi (all of whom interview in Memphis, Tennessee) will also have their asylum and/or NACARA 203 interviews conducted at the Houston Asylum Office.

All other Houston circuit ride locations — Denver, Colorado; El Paso, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Salt Lake City, Utah — will remain active.

Chicago Asylum Office: All asylum and NACARA 203 applicants who live within Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati, Mansfield, Dayton, Chilicothe, and Lima, Ohio and within certain portions of Indiana (zip code areas 47000-47099), will now have their asylum and/or NACARA 203 interviews conducted in the Chicago Asylum Office.

In addition, all asylum and NACARA 203 applicants who live in Louisville, Kentuckywill also have their interviews conducted in the Chicago Asylum Office. <

All asylum and NACARA 203 applicants who will be affected by these changes in venues will be notified of the changed lication via an Interview Notice, that informs the applicant of the date, time and place of the interview. Interviews already scheduled to take place will not be affected by this notice. These interviews will take place at their originally stated locations.

For more information on this BCIS notice, please contact Joanna Ruppel, Deputy Director, Asylum Division, Office of Asylum and Refugee Affairs, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 425 I Street, NW., Attn: ULLICO, Third Floor, Washington, DC 20536. (T) 202.305.2714.

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US TIGHTENS RULES FOR FOREIGN VISITORS

Last Friday, the U.S. announced that nonimmigrant visitors from nearly all countries will be required to be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival. This extension of the US-VISIT program (a program that already affects dozens of nations) will take effect September 30, 2004 and will include many nonimmigrant categories, including the visa waiver program. While participants in the visa waiver program will be able to travel to the U.S. without a visa, they will need to meet the same requirements as all other visitors.

This extension of the US-VISIT program will affect many close allies of the United States, including Australia, Britian and Japan. Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for borders and transportation security, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), understands that many individuals will be disturbed by this change. However, Hutchinson says, “[the DHS hopes] that the international community will understand our new system. This step is designated to make sure the security issues will be addressed. This will be a measure to identify terrorists.”

As of September 30, individuals from the following countries will be required to be photographed and fingerprinted upon entry into the U.S.: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britian, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Citizens of Canada and Mexico will not be affected by this change in process.

This extension of nations affected by the US-VISIT program is directly related to a necessity to extend the October 26, 2004 deadline Congress set for visa waiver countries to issue to their citizens passports that contain biometric data. In the face of a deadline most nations will not meet, the State Department feels it must implement these heightened security measures to ensure safety. “We believe that an extension of the visa waiver program will avoid potential disruption to international travel and at the same time enrollment in US-VISIT will help mitigate the security concerns related to extending the deadline for biometric passports,” says Adam Ereli, deputy State Department spokesman.

The US-VISIT program requires all foreigners entering the U.S. to provide digital fingerprints and a photograph upon entry to verify their identities and was implemented after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to ensure security within American borders.