Impact of New Security Procedures on Visa Application & Revalidation Procedures Special Processing Requirements (SPR) on Visa Issuance for Men from Listed Countries; Suspension & Reinstatement of Visa Processing for “Third Country Nationals” in Canada or Mexico; Longer Waits for Revalidation of Visas By Mail
Special Processing Requirements
The U.S. Department of State has imposed Special Processing Requirements (“SPR”) on the process of issuing visas to persons from certain nationalities post September 11, for security reasons. Under the SPR, males between the ages of 16 to 45, who are nationals of certain countries, are now subject to a 20-day security check wait before their visas are issued. This procedure is not unprecedented. (For example, certain Iranians have been subject to a Visas Eagle check, which is now only valid on a per visa entry basis and takes 30 days.) However, now there is a much greater possibility that one of your employees may be affected.
Though the State Department has not officially acknowledged that the new procedures have been implemented, the 20 day check allegedly applies to the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. There have been some reports of females being subject to these requirements as well as other countries such as Bangladesh, but it is not clear if such rumors are based on the misapplication or application of this procedure. Please note that this list could also change. Please also note you cannot rely on the newspaper articles for accuracy as to the countries impacted by this policy. Some countries may be inaccurately listed or others inadvertently omitted.
In sum: These security measures may impact the ability of certain employees to quickly obtain visas to enter the U.S. Your employees may wish to take this into account if they need visas to re-enter the U.S. after travel abroad on business or pleasure.
Suspension & Reinstatement of Visa Processing for “Third Country Nationals” in Canada or Mexico
Normally, a foreign person is expected to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in his or her home country. However, a consulate in another country can agree to accept a visa application from a “third country national.” (Third country refers to the fact that the applicant is not from the country where the consulate is located, or from the U.S., but is from a “third country.”) For some time now, “third country nationals” have sometimes found it convenient to apply for a visa at one of the U.S. consulates in Canada or Mexico. A government contractor is responsible for a visa appointment system called MINACS. The system requires a person to call either 900-443-3131 or logging onto www.nvars.com to make appointments. This system covers the following posts: Calgary, Ciudad Juarez, Halifax, Matamoros, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Tijuana, Toronto, and Vancouver.
On November 10, 2001, the State Dept temporarily suspended all appointments for third country nationals due to reasons relating to the 20-day security hold mentioned above. Then, on Monday, Dec. 3, 2001, the MINACS contractor was back in business scheduling appointments. The system is not the same. After the appointment is booked, each day MINACS forwards lists of those scheduled to the applicable consulate. An officer at each consulate reviews the list to determine who would be subject to the 20-day security wait. If subject, that person’s appointment is cancelled. THUS, WHAT IS HAPPENING IS THAT BORDER POSTS ARE NOT BEING USED FOR ANYONE SUBJECT TO THE NEW SPR REQUIREMENTS. However, all applicants, regardless of country, are advised to wait five business days after scheduling before making airline reservations or other travel plans to determine if they will be contacted by phone or e-mail to cancel the appointment. Those not contacted in this time frame have appointments.
In sum: Employees subject to SPR will no longer be able to apply for visas at the U.S. consulates in Canada or Mexico. It appears that those not subject to SPR may continue to utilize this process. Procedures may continue to evolve; we will provide additional information as it becomes available.