New immigration rules won't affect many with DOD affiliation
January 8, 2004
The Department of Homeland Security’s new US-VISIT program, under which many foreign visitors will be fingerprinted and photographed as part of their entry immigration check, will not affect most non-U.S. citizen military spouses.
The program started Monday and affects those entering the United States at 115 airports and 14 seaports.
According to the Homeland Security Web site, most countries with large U.S. military populations are part of the Visa Waiver Program, including Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, England and Iceland. South Korea and the Philippines are among the countries not included in the program.
Any non-U.S. citizen who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States — those holding a green card — and most people from the 27 countries in the waiver program will not be fingerprinted or photographed as part of their immigration checks.
“Typically, the spouses of citizens have green cards so they’re not included,” said Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger.
However, some loved ones may have to go through the extra steps.
“Fiances are the primary ones, or the family members of foreign-born spouses,” Strassberger said. But if those relatives are 14 years and younger, or 79 and older, they will be exempt from the fingerprints and photograph process.
Chief Petty Officer Francisco Hilvano of Naval Hospital Naples, Italy, doesn’t like the idea of fingerprinting people.
“Once I get fingerprinted … there’s some kind of criminal insinuation,” he said.
Hilvano and his wife are natives of the Philippines. Relatives visiting them when the couple returns to the United States will be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival.
“I know it’s for security reasons, and I don’t blame them, but what’s the difference between a Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Italian?” he asked. “You have a lot of Filipinos in the military; why pick on us? Or the Koreans?”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Victor Egharevba of the Naples Capodichino Branch Medical Clinic is originally from Nigeria, but is now a U.S. citizen. His Liberian wife, however, is still trying to get her green card.
Until then, she’ll have to go through the US-VISIT requirements if she visits the States.
Egharevba doesn’t object to the extra security but doesn’t like the idea of immigration taking any longer than necessary.
“I’m not against them doing it for security measures,” he said. “But is there another way to do it?”
According to a Homeland Security news release, tests have shown that the US-VISIT Program requirements add an average of 15 seconds to the entry process for foreign nationals traveling with visas.
“They might say it’s 15 seconds, but I’d think in most cases it would be longer,” Egharevba said. For an entire airplane of people going through the process “that’s a lot of wasted time.”
Even if Egharevba and his wife flew on a military-chartered Patriot Express flight to the United States, she would be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival since she would go through the same immigration process as those on commercial flights.
Patriot Express flights from Asia and Europe land at civilian international airports, or — like the one that leaves from Naples — Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia. Every Patriot Express destination in the United States, including the military terminal at Norfolk, has the equipment to register people in the US-VISIT program.
Homeland Security officials will eventually refingerprint and rephotograph departing US-VISIT passengers to ensure people don’t overstay their visas and are actually the same people who entered the country. A departure confirmation program is currently being tested at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and at selected Miami cruise line terminals. BWI Airport is one of the departure locations for Patriot Express flights.
Those entering the United States through land border crossings do not currently have to go through US-VISIT procedures.
More information on the US-VISIT program is available on the DHS Web site at: www.dhs.gov/us-visit.