• U.S. officials barred from reviewing social media postings of visa applicants

    Officials from DHS and the Department of State, as a general policy, do not check social media postings of applicants out of civil liberties concerns. With this policy in place, the department’s officials who handled Tashfeen Malik’s application could not have seen her pro-ISIS postings and note her growing radicalization. Officials from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pressed for a change in DHS policy in light of the fact that social media  is increasingly used by followers of jihadist groups to declare their allegiance, but the disclosures by Edward Snowden about NSA surveillance programs was behind the reluctance of DHS high officials to change the policy for fears such a change would further damage the administration’s standing with civil rights groups and European allies.

  • GOP lawmakers draft bill to bolster Visa Waiver security

    About twenty million people use the Visa Waiver program to come to the United States every year. A bill being considered in the House would block anyone who has traveled to Syria, Iraq or a few other nations in the past five years from participating in the Visa Waiver program. It would also require the United States to collect more information about those who avail themselves of the program, codifying a policy already in place.

  • U.S. modifies Visa-Waiver program to make it more secure

    The United States announced Monday that it would make changes to the Visa Waiver program in an effort to prevent terrorists who are citizens of Visa Waiver countries from easily entering the United States. The New York Times reports that the White House has admitted that the changes — which would impose higher fines for airlines which fail to verify passengers’ identities and increased information-sharing among countries — are limited, and that more sweeping changes would require Congressional action. Law enforcement and security experts say that the Visa Waiver program — which allows more than twenty million foreigners form the thirty-eight Visa Waiver countries to travel to the United States each year without being interviewed at American consulates and embassies — dwarfs the administration’s Syrian refugee plan, and poses a far greater threat to national security.

  • Visa Waiver program more serious threat than refugees: Senate Intel. Comm. chair

    Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said that terrorists who are citizens of Visa Waiver countries – and who, therefore, can travel from Europe to the United States without a visa — pose a more serious threat to U.S. security than refugees from Syria. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), vice-chairman of the intelligence committee, said that around 13 million people enter the United States each year through the Visa Waiver program, but she also understands that more than 40 million stolen travel documents are on the black market in Europe.

  • EB-5 foreign investor visa program susceptible to fraud, misuse: GAO

    The United States has launched dozens of investigations into fraudulent practices in a program, called EB-5, which grants Green Cards to foreigners who invest $500,000 in selected U.S. ventures. A GAO report notes that the program is vulnerable to fraud, because many of the applicants care less about the success of the venture in which they invest and more about getting the Green Card, and can easily afford to lose $500,000 in order to get the card.

  • U.S. tightens Visa Waiver Program security measures

    Citizens of the thirty-eight countries which are part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program may travel to the United States without having to obtain an entry visa if they plan to stay in the United States for a period not exceeding ninety days, and if they meet the requirements. Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would tighten the security measures which are already part of the program, and add additional security measures to it.

  • Selling visas could help put an end to human smuggling trade

    Researchers say that using a new visa-selling economic model could help governments eradicate human smuggling. The policy involves pricing criminals out of the market while raising funds for improving traditional border controls. The researchers say existing schemes are not working and believe new policies are needed to control illegal migration and stop people paying criminals to smuggle them overseas.

  • Tech companies push for more visas for highly skilled foreign workers

    Tech companies seeking more visas for highly skilled foreign workers are pushing their agenda as the United States grant visas to a number of immigrants in a lottery which began this week. Supporters of the campaign say 233,000 people are vying for 85,000 H-1B temporary visas. Some critics want to cut back on the H-1B visas, blaming the program for displacing American workers, butcalls to scale back on H-1B visas will have to overcome a campaign backed by powerful groups. In 1999, Congress raised the cap to 115,000 to help the booming technology sector. That limit soon rose to 195,000 before falling back to its current level in 2004.

  • Bill would expand Visa Waiver Program despite security concerns

    U.S. Representatives Joe Heck (R-Nevada) and Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) have re-introduced the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which aims to create American jobs by expanding the nation’s Visa Waiver Program(VWP) to more countries. Today, thirty-eight countries are included in the VWP, but with more than 3,000 European nationals flocking to Syria and Iraq to fight in the ranks of terror groups such as Islamic State (ISIS), expanding the VWP to more countries is a security concern.

  • With thousands of Westerners joining ISIS, visa waiver program puts U.S. at risk: Lawmakers

    Security concerns are threatening the 1986 visa waiver program (VWP), which allows millions of people with (mostly) Western passports to travel to the United States for ninety days without a visa. Lawmakers argue that the program, which applies to citizens of thirty-eight countries, has created a security weakness that terrorist groups, specifically the Islamic State (ISIS), could exploit. Thousands of European citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Security officials fear that many of them could return back to Europe, then board a U.S.-bound flight with the intent of launching an attack on American soil.

  • U.S. introduces new security measures to screen Western-passport travelers

    At least 3,000 of the 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria are from Australia and Europe. DHS has introduced new screening measures for travelers from Europe, Australia, and other allied nations due to concerns about the increasing number of Islamist militants who have fought in Syria and Iraq alongside the Islamic State (ISIS) and could travel freely to the United States using their Western passports.

  • Eligible Haitian immigrants to be allowed to wait in U.S. for green card processing

    Haitian immigrants eligible for green cards will soon be able to wait through the process in the United States, according to a new family reunification program proposed by President Barack Obama. Starting next year, DHS will begin the implementation of the Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) program, aiming to accelerate the green card process for those living in Haiti who have already been approved for an immigration visa due to familial connections.

  • Tension between humanitarian ideals, fear of terrorism in European asylum decisions

    New research has found that European states that experienced a terrorist attack on their own soil since 1980 were less likely to grant asylum to refugees. The study also found, however, that on the whole, concerns over terrorism in Europe have not eroded underpinnings of the Geneva Convention’s principles regarding asylum admission.

  • Corrupt practices: U.S. visa-granting easily compromised

    While serving as a Foreign Service Officer in Guyana, Thomas Carroll sold visas to anyone who would pay, making millions of dollars in the process. Carroll’s scheme differed from the petty favors and kick-backs, which had typified FSO visa fraud in other embassies and consulates, mostly in scale. He took retail visa fraud and made it wholesale.

  • Lawmakers want to ease travel to U.S. as part of immigration legislation

    A bi-partisan group of House lawmakers is working to include a provision in the House immigration legislation which will make it easier to travel to the United States. Travel industry groups support the effort, having fought for years to get the government to relax security measures. The industry has argued that these measures have turned off many foreigners from traveling to the United States.