SOME ITALIANS AND FRENCH CITIZENS WILL NOW NEED A VISA TO VISIT THE U.S.

It appears that citizens of Austria, France and Italy may lose the right to travel in the U.S. without having to obtain a visa in advance of their visit. These countries all most likely will not reach the October 26 th deadline to include a digital photograph on all newly issued passports. The new American passport rule requires that all countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (which allows their citizens to visit the U.S. without having to obtain a visa in advance) administer to their citizens machine-readable passports with digital photographs. All other 27 participating Visa Waiver Program members have reached this requirement; their citizens will continue to only need a machine-readable passport to visit the U.S.

This lack of reaching the deadline, however, will not have major effect on travel to the U.S. The deadline will only affect passports issued on or after October 26. Further, only parts of France and Italy will be affected; the majority of areas in the two nations are currently able to produce the required passport. In addition, it seems that Austria will soon have a solution for their situation.

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DIGITAL PHOTO DEADLINE FOR PASSPORTS APPROACHING

October 26th Requirement for Visa Waiver Program Countries Will Enhance Security and Facilitate Travel and Trade

WASHINGTON, DC – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reminding visitors that Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries will be required to produce passports with digital photographs by October 26, 2005. The requirement for digital photographs is part of a multi-layered approach to increasing the security of our citizens and visitors by helping to ensure the integrity of their travel documents.

DHS recognizes the importance of travel and trade – particularly from VWP nations – to our own economic and cultural well-being. This is another critical step among many that are bringing us closer to realizing a future vision of a world in which travel around the globe is secure for legitimate visitors and extremely difficult for those who would do us harm.
Visitors with valid machine-readable passports issued prior to October 26, 2005, may continue to travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. Passports issued on or after October 26, 2005 require the digital photo. Visitors who are issued a passport after the October 26 deadline that does not meet these requirements will be required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States.

Visitors can tell whether their passport meets these requirements if it contains a digital photograph that is printed on the page, not glued or laminated into the document. Digital photographs offer more security against counterfeiting than traditional photographs. Passport guidelines and samples showing what to look for to determine if a passport is in compliance can be viewed on the DHS website at

www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/VWP_PassportRequirementTimeline_07-2005.pdf .

Beginning October 26, 2005, transportation carriers will be fined up to $3,300, per violation, for transporting any visitor traveling under the Visa Waiver Program to the United States who does not meet these requirements. Similarly, visitors traveling under he Visa Waiver Program arriving in the United States on that date without the proper passport should not anticipate being granted entry into the country.

This prerequisite is mandated by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 which calls for any passport issued after October 26, 2005, and used for VWP travel, to include a biometric identifier, such as a digital photo. After extensive consultation with Congress and the Department of State, DHS announced the digital photo requirement on June 15, 2005.

In general, digital photographs provide more security against counterfeiting than traditional photographs. While counterfeiting of both traditional and digital photographs can take place, photo switching on the passport data page is generally easier and cheaper to attempt with traditional photographs.

The 27 countries participating in the VWP include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The majority of VWP countries already issue passports with a digital photo integrated into the data page. However, DHS anticipates that three countries—Italy, Austria and France— will not have enough digital photo production capabilities in operation by October 26, 2005 to replace all passports that will expire with digital photos. DHS will continue to work closely with these countries to certify their full compliance as soon as possible. In the case of Austria, DHS expects compliance with the digital photo requirement in summer 2006. Until that time, Austrians traveling to the U.S. with passports expiring after October 26, 2005 should plan to obtain a visa. In the case of France and Italy, DHS recognizes that certain municipalities will have digital photo capabilities to accommodate the new requirements as of October 26, 2005. However, neither country will have 100% coverage by the deadline. Therefore, travelers from these countries are urged to contact their local passport issuance offices to obtain information on whether a digital passport can be issued. If not, DHS urges travelers to obtain a visa prior to travel to the U.S.

Instructions to apply for a U.S. visa are available at www.travel.state.gov , by calling the Department of State’s Visa Services center at (202) 663-1225, or by contacting the nearest consulate or embassy.

TSA Procedure to Clear Your Name from a Travel Watch List Now Online

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has now posted online procedures for individuals to distinguish their name from a similar name on a travel Watch List. This Passenger Identity Verification Form (PIVF) is available online at http://www.tsa.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/PIV_Form.pdf.
Further explanations about the procedures are available online at 
http://www.tsa.gov/public/interapp/editorial/editorial_1829.xml. Do note that these procedures apply only to individuals affected by the Watch Lists and minor children. Submitting the form will not take your name off the list; it will, however, place your name and identifying information on a cleared portion of the Watch List. Further, this information will be forwarded to all airlines in the U.S.

USCIS Suggests Leniency In Relation to Individuals Affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

The USCIS has issued a series of remedial measures to respond to the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The proposed measures will cover individuals and entities who can establish that they lived, worked or ran their professional business/entity in an affected area of Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama at the time of Hurricane Katrina or an affected area of Texas or Louisiana at the time of Hurricane Rita. Individuals do not need to currently reside in those areas. Because it may be hard to procure necessary immigration-related documentation, USCIS will perform systems or other checks to verify that individuals lived/worked in the affected areas.

In the USCIS guidance notice, it is suggested that adjudicators exercise their discretion to forgive lapses in status in connection with an extension of status or change of status application for individuals affected by the Hurricanes. Further, adjudicators are guided to be liberal in allowing aliens who are no longer in status due to the Hurricanes to extend of change their status, regardless of when such applications may have been filed (as long as the application was filed no later than one year after the dates of the Hurricanes). Adjudicators will forgive untimely filings whenever they are directly related to the Hurricanes.

Adjudicators are also given guidance to be lenient when applicable to the following situations or conditions that may have been caused by the Hurricanes: certain applications and petitions denied for abandonment; and failures to timely respond to requests for evidence. In addition, leniency will be given as aliens work to replace lost documentation. Finally, adjudicators are guided to be sensitive and responsive to requests for fee waivers from those affected by the two Hurricanes.

Current Cap Count for Non-Immigrant Worker Visas

The following table provides statistics on Non-immigrant worker visa programs:

H-1B
(FY 06)
H-1B Advance Degree Exemption (FY 05)
H-1B Advance Degree Exemption
(FY 06)
H-2B
(FY 05)*
H-2B 1st Half
(FY 06)
H-2B
2nd Half
(FY 06)
Cap
58,200**
20,000
20,000
35,000
33,000
33,000

Cases Approved

22,383
12,058
7,099
18,849
9,300
Cases Pending
29,556
868
5,340
5,555
5,526
Total
51,939
12,926
12,439
24,404
14,826

Date of Last Count

8/4/2005
9/19/2005
9/19/2005
9/20/2005
9/20/2005

USCIS Posts Information on DV 2007 Requirements

The USCIS has posted information on requirements for the DV 2007 program. The diversity lottery makes available 50,000 permanent residency visas to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. Applications for this visa are chosen by a computer generated random lottery drawing. The 50,000 visas are distributed among 6 geographical regions, with more visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration to the U.S. and no visas being issued to individuals form nations that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past five years. Within each of the 6 regions, no single country can received more than 7 percent of the available lottery visas per year.

For 2007, individuals from the following nations are NOT eligible to apply for the DV visa:

Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.

Applications for the DV-2007 lottery must be submitted electronically between Noon (EST) Wednesday, October 5, 2005 and Noon (EST) Sunday, December 4, 2005. For more information, visithttp://www.dvlottery.state.gov.

Department of State Creates the Business Visa Center to assist International Businesses

In their continuing efforts to facilitate the efficient issuance of visas for ‘legitimate business travelers worldwide’, the Department of State has created the Business Visa Center. This new Center, launched in July of this year, will assist businesses in the U.S., along with their partners, customers and colleagues throughout the world. Visit the Business Visa Center online at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_2664.html.

The Business Visa Center will assist businesses through access to information about the visa application process, as related to business visa travel to the U.S. Companies can have the Business Visa Center contact them in order to receive specific explanations of the processes for entering the U.S. for legitimate business travel. Contact them by telephone at 202.663.3198 or by emailing BusinessVisa@state.gov.com

More detailed information for businesses can be accessed by visiting travel.state.gov.