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Fall 2002 Travel Advisory for International Students and Scholars

Purpose
This travel advisory has been prepared by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to provide you with up-to-date information on the many recent changes in federal regulations.  In response to the events of September 11, 2001, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (USCIS) and the United States Department of State (DOS) have instituted many important changes that you should be aware of as they may significantly influence your travel plans.  This advisory will provide information about changes related to the specific issues listed below.

  1. Applying for a U.S. visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad
  2. Travel to Canada, Mexico and the adjacent islands (other than Cuba)
Changes in policies and procedures have significantly increased the processing times for visa stamp applications at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. We anticipate more changes to come, therefore, the information provided in this advisory is subject to change at any time.  If you intend to travel outside of the U.S., we strongly suggest you contact your advisor at the ISSO so you may be given the most current information available. 

In addition, we recommend that you to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to which you intend to apply for the visa to inquire about their specific application process.  A list of links to the websites of all U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad can be found at http://usembassy.state.gov/

New Procedures for Nonimmigrant Visa Applications
There have been a number of changes to the application procedures for a nonimmigrant visa stamp.  The changes have led to significant delays in visa issuance.  The major changes include:
  1. Supplementary nonimmigrant visa application forms DS-157 and DS-158
  2. Required ISSO electronic notification requirement
  3. Additional security checks throughout the visa application process
1) Supplementary Nonimmigrant Visa Application Forms
DS-156 - All nonimmigrant visa applicants are required to complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. This form can be obtained at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad as well as on the DOS website at:   http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html.  Please be advised that the standard nonimmigrant visa application fee increased from $65 to $100 effective November 1, 2002. Since the events of September 11, 2001, the DOS has created two additional forms:

DS-157 - The Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-157 is now required of all male visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 regardless of their nationality and regardless to which U.S. Embassy or Consulate they apply for a visa.  Please note that consular officials also have the discretion to require any nonimmigrant visa applicant, regardless of age or gender, to complete the Form DS-157, if deemed necessary.  The form requires the applicant to list all countries to which he/she has traveled, previous employers and previous schools attended.  Please be prepared to provide this information.  You may access the form and download it from the DOS website at:  http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html

DS-158 - The Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-158 is now required of all individuals applying for student visas.  The form requires the applicant to list contact information of family members and a work history that includes dates and contact information of previous employers.  Applicants should be prepared to provide this detailed information.  It may be advisable to bring a CV or resume with you.  You may access the form and download it from the DOS website at:  http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html

2) Electronic Notification
Effective September 11, 2002, the DOS requires that academic institutions or exchange programs send electronic evidence of acceptance, or continued attendance of each student or exchange visitor and all dependents applying for a visa. If you or any of your dependent family members are planning to apply for a new visa stamp while abroad, you must contact the ISSO before you depart the U.S. as we are now required to confirm your eligibility for a visa in a new DOS database.  We are required to enter your specific information into the Interim Student and Exchange Authentication System (ISEAS). The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will not issue a visa stamp to you or to your dependent family members without an electronic confirmation from the ISEAS system. 

3) Security Checks
The DOS has been performing additional security checks at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates for visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries.  Although the DOS has not published an official list of countries, it is likely that these new procedures apply to citizens of the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen

it was estimated that applications that were subject to the security check would take approximately 20 additional business days to be processed.  However, due to the heavy volume of applications and the existing backlog, the checks now could take anywhere from 20 business days to several months. Citizens of the above-mentioned countries, who plan to travel and apply for a new visa stamp, must be aware that the process could take much longer than it has it has in the past. even if you are not from one of the countries listed above yet plan to travel and apply for a new visa stamp, we recommend that you consult an advisor in our office.  The consular official will determine if you are subject to a security check based on a number of different sources of information including, but not limited to, your application forms. Security checks are not limited to citizens of the countries listed above and are at the discretion of the visa officer.  If your application is subject to a security check you will most likely experience a significant delay in your visa issuance.  An advisor at the ISSO may be able to help you determine if you may be subject to a security clearance. Please recognize that potential delays in visa application processing may make it impossible for you to return to resume your studies on time.  Therefore, if you need a new visa, please seriously consider your travel plans.  Travel over winter intercession is of particular concern since typically the U.S. Embassies and Consulates experience a high volume of visa applications during that period and many offices close or reduce their hours during the holidays.

if citizens of the above-mentioned countries applying for a visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a third country, must remain in that third country while they wait for visa approval.  Please also be reminded that citizens of countries on the DOS's list of "states that sponsor terrorism" (currently Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, North Korea and Cuba) are prohibited from applying for visas at U.S. Embassies or Consulates in third countries.

Changes in visits to Canada, Mexico or Adjacent islands with Expired US visa stamps
As of April 1, 2002, there have been two significant changes to the automatic visa revalidation benefit. automatic visa revalidation allows nonimmigrant visa holders to travel to "contiguous territories" (Canada, Mexico and the adjacent islands, except Cuba) for a visit of 30 days or fewer, and return to the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa stamp, provided they entered the U.S. in a nonimmigrant visa category have and are maintaining valid nonimmigrant status.  The adjacent islands include: The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica, Martinique, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Trinidad and Tobago, The Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Nevis, St. Kitts and the British Virgin Islands), the Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent) and other British, French or Dutch territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea. 

The two changes to this policy are as follows:

  1. Citizens of certain countries are no longer eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation
  2. Nonimmigrant visa applicants who are denied a visa are no longer eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation

1. Citizens of certain countries are no longer eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation
Citizens of countries identified by the department of State as a "state that sponsors terrorism" (currently Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, North Korea and Cuba) are no longer eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation.  Please be advised that the countries included on this list are subject to change. 

2. Individuals who apply for a new visa stamp are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation while their application is pending or if they are denied a visa 
An individual who chooses to apply for a nonimmigrant visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a contiguous territory (Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, except Cuba) is not eligible to return to the U.S. while the application is pending or if the application is denied at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

If the visa application is denied, the applicant will be required to travel directly elsewhere (most likely to their home country) to apply again for a U.S. visa stamp before they may return to the U.S.  Please note that this new restriction applies to citizens of all countries, not just the 7 countries listed above.

In summary, individuals traveling to the contiguous territories (Canada, Mexico and the adjacent islands, except Cuba) for a stay of 30 days or fewer who have an expired U.S. visa, valid passport, valid immigration documents (i.e. I-20. IAP66 or DS2019) and a valid I-94 card are still eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation unless they are citizens of one of the 7 countries listed above that are considered by the DOS as "states that sponsor terrorism" or they apply for a visa stamp and are denied. All others are eligible to take advantage of automatic visa revalidation and return to the U.S. with an expired visa stamp.

Additional Information
The ISSO is pleased to provide you with information, advice, and assistance on any visa or immigration matter, which relates to your activities at Boston University.  If you have any questions or would like additional information, please visit our office or call to make an appointment to meet with your ISSO Advisor.

 

ISSO
Boston University
February 28, 2005

Boston University International Students & Scholars Office