Question: I have heard that the Homeland Security Bill has passed the House and the Senate. I am confused on know this will effect several people whom I know are in the immigration process. Could you give me some background on what exactly this bill does?
Answer: First, and foremost, this bill referred to as the “The Homeland Security Act of 2002” creates a new department within the United States Government. The main purpose of this department is to prevent terrorism and to make the United States safer. The bill is enormous. It is over 400 pages and deals with a huge variety of issues. Of course, my response will mainly focus on the immigration issues.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service will cease to exist in its present capacity. If fact, the Homeland Security Bill abolishes the INS. There are two major functions currently in the INS. One is the enforcement division which is concerned with deportation/removal and enforcement of the immigration laws. This part of INS is going to be transferred to what is known as Bureau of Border Security under the Department of Homeland Security. The duties of issuing visas will now be transferred to the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security in tandem with the Secretary of State. The issuance of Visas will be headed by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Question: Are there any other new departments? Specifically, who will rule on applications sent to INS?
Answer: Section 451 of the Bill creates the establishment of Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. This sub-department will perform the following functions: 1) Adjudications of immigrant visa petitions; 2) Adjudications of naturalization petitions; 3) Adjudications of asylum and refugee applications; 4) Adjudications performed at service centers; and 5) All other adjudications performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Question: When do all these provisions go into effect?
Answer: Again, the INS would look at this as fraud. In fact, if you get married within less than 60 days after entry to the U.S. on the Visitor Visa, you are presumed to have committed fraud. Not only will the application for Lawful Permanent Residency be denied, you could very well get deported because of the fraud.
Question: What are the consequences of doing the change of status right after entering the U.S.?
Answer: First, they could deny your change of status application and you could go out of status. Next, the INS may very well assume that you committed fraud. That is, when you got the Visitor Visa and entered the U.S. that you did not really intend to visit, but rather, intended to go to school or to work in the United States. If that happens, you could be deported because you committed misrepresentation and fraud. The fraud will stay with you forever and never goes away. If you ever want to reenter the U.S., you will need to get a Fraud Waiver. Those are not easy waivers to obtain.
Question: What is the best way to avoid these drastic consequences?
Answer: First, the way that people come into the U.S. is probably going to change. You must decide whether you want to go to school or work since these are the options you might be considering. If you are intending on going to school, then you should get the I-20 and apply for the Student Visa from your home country. Then, when you enter the U.S., you will be entering as a Student, not a Visitor. Alternatively, if you want to work in the U.S., you should have your sponsor file the petition prior to you getting to the U.S. Therefore, you will not have any allegations by INS that you committed fraud. You need to be very careful if you come to the U.S. with a Visitor Visa and then change your status right away. Obviously, since you only will be getting 30 days in the U.S., you must strongly consider not getting a change of status in the U.S.