Congressman Green introduces VISA Act to improve national security

Last week, Congressman Gene Green introduced the Visa Information Security Act of 2001 (VISA Act) —legislation that will increase the security of the American people by closing some of the loopholes within the visa application system. This legislation requires that all non-immigrant visa applicants submit a biometric fingerprint as part of the routine visa application process.

The recent terrorist attacks have highlighted the need to review the visa application process and how we can improve the screening process used by U.S. Consular offices abroad. Usually, visa applicant names are checked against the State Department database for admissibility. However, some individuals use false information from their country of origin when they apply for a visa or use stolen visas to enter the U.S.

This process is quick and efficient and can be run through our national criminal database to see if the applicant should or should not be allowed into the country. Additionally, when the individual enters the country through the port of entry, his fingerprints will be scanned to verify authenticity.

“While it is impossible to screen every single individual who enters our country, with advanced technology and better coordination with the intelligence community we can better secure our nations borders,” Green said. “However, in order to effectively authenticate individuals, we need a method based on inherent characteristics of a person that cannot be lost, changed or duplicated.”
“Adding this technology requirement would not add significant time to the visa application process, but it would certainly prevent known terrorists and criminals from entering the country, while at the same time decrease fraudulent visa requests.” Green added.

Specifically, the VISA Act of 2001 would:

• Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to require that non-immigrant visa applicants provide a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint, that is machine readable, to be contained on the visa or other documentation required for admission at their port of entry into the United States.

• Authorizes the Attorney General to impose a new fee on all visa applicants to cover the costs of implementing the system.

• This legislation will not apply to NAFTA participating countries and allows the Attorney General maximum discretion to decide what methods to utilize for those types of border crossings.

“We need to collect more information about the individuals trying to enter our country, but we must do it in a way that does not overburden our consular offices and still allow for visitors to enter the United States.” said Green.