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The Rediff Special/Amberish K Diwanji in Mumbai
July 05, 2004
What is the current worry about the new US visa rules?
The new rule states that for certain visa categories, when the visa period expires, the individual must leave the US, acquire a fresh visa from an embassy abroad, and then re-enter the USA.
Earlier, if the visa expired while on a visit to the US, a person could simply apply to a State Department office in the US and get an extension or a fresh visa in the same category.
Which are the visa categories that will be affected by this new rule?
The visa categories are E, H, I, L, O, P
E: traders and investors
L: corporate workers
O: people with particular skills
P: entertainers, artists, athletes
When does this rule come into effect?
This rule comes into effect from July 16, 2004. From this date onwards, if your visa expires while you are in the US, you will have to leave the US and acquire a fresh visa or an extension.
Will Indians be affected?
It is estimated that of all the foreigners, Indians will be the largest group to be affected.
Last year, the US embassies and consulates worldwide issued 50,000 visas under the above-mentioned six categories, and a whopping 46 percent of these were issued to Indians! Again, from within the Indians, the largest chunk comprise information technology workers.
Why Indians? We aren't terrorists!
True, but the new rules applies universally to the citizens of all countries who require a visa to visit the US.
But why is this being done now?
Last year, the US Congress -- that is the House of Representatives and the Senate, something like our Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha -- passed a resolution saying that visitors entering the US must be fingerprinted. The State Department figures the best way to do that is to fingerprint the visitors preferably in their home country or at an embassy or consulate abroad; it is not possible to fingerprint the visitors while they are in the US.
Hence, this new rule, which will force visitors whose visas have expired to leave the US, acquire a fresh visa, be fingerprinted, and then go back to the US.
So will the fingerprinting start right away?
No. The US Congress deadline to the State Department to fingerprint all visitors to the US is from October 24, 2004. By that date, the State Department says it will have fingerprint-scanning machines at all posts that issue visas across the world.
Just a minute. Will I have to return to India to reissue my visa?
Not necessarily. The new rule says you must acquire the visa from an embassy or consulate abroad. Which means you can also acquire from another country like Canada or Mexico or UK (something Indians keep doing whenever they want to change their visa category). But in the post-9/11 situation, please remember you will also be interviewed and you might have a better chance in India than in a third country.
Image: Rahil Shaikh