January 11, 2010
As a result of the attempted terrorist attack on December 25, 2009, enhancements to travel security measures are being implemented. In light of these changes, foreign nationals and their employers must prepare for additional delays while applying for visas at consulates as well as in applying for entry at US ports of entry.
Delays At Airports
Additional security enhancements at all US airports include enhanced screening of every individual flying into the US from or through nations that are State Sponsors of Terrorism or other countries of interest, as well as the majority of all passengers traveling on US-bound flights. Countries of interest include: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, U.A.E., and Yemen.
The government will more closely scrutinize existing security databases and watch-lists (e.g., "no-fly list"), and broaden the criteria that lead to an individual being placed on such a list. As a result, more travelers will find themselves subject to closer questioning and searches at airports and all US ports of entry. In addition to travel restrictions, where the government has significant security concerns about a foreign national, it could also revoke an already-issued US visa.
Delays Applying for US Visas
Extensive background checks on what will likely be a greater number of visa applications will result in longer wait times for US visas. Consulates may not necessarily provide applicants with information on pending visa applications and thus, applicants experiencing delays may assume that security clearance checks are underway and delays lasting weeks or months may be in store.
Given the expected increase in the overall number of cases subject to heightened scrutiny, delays are likely to affect all visa applicants. Therefore, it is imperative that foreign nationals and their employers plan for lengthy delays and be prepared to make special arrangements such as working remotely from abroad.
Foreign nationals, particularly those living alone, should also ensure their homes and belongings in the US will be looked after in case their absence becomes lengthier than expected (e.g., ability to receive and pay all bills online, mail hold by USPS, etc.).