On May 16, 2016, Representative Will Hurd (R-TX), along with Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX), Candice Miller (R-MI), Peter King (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY), and Martha McSally (R-AZ), introduced H.R. 5253, the “Strong Visa Integrity Secures America Act.” The Homeland Security Committee will consider this bill on June 8, 2016.
The bill’s purpose is to improve visa security, visa applicant vetting, and other related purposes. Below is a section-by-section analysis of this bill.
Section 2: Visa Security: This section of the bill is concerned with security at U.S. consular posts abroad and sets out the criteria for assigning consular officers on a risk-based manner. The criteria are:
1) number of nationals per that specific country who were identified in the U.S. government database as known or suspected terrorists during the previous year;
2) the level of cooperation between that country and the U.S. in counterterrorism efforts;
3) available information on terrorist activity;
4) the number of derogatory Security Advisory Opinions issued regarding the nationals of the country;
5) the country’s border and immigration control; and
6) any other criteria the Secretary deems appropriate. This section also provides counterterrorism training for any employee sent to a consular post abroad.
Section 3: Electronic Passport Screening and Biometric Matching: This section provides that within one year of the date of enactment of the Act, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be required to screen electronic passports at airports by reading the passport’s embedded chips, and that facial recognition technology and other biometric technology shall also be used, where applicable. This section also provides that any individuals who are issued visas to enter the United States must be continuously screened against the appropriate criminal, national security, and terrorism databases as maintained by the U.S. Federal Government.
Section 4: Reporting of Visa Overstays: Section 4 of the proposed bill requires that once a year, the Secretary of Homeland Security submit a report to the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives including numerical estimations of nonimmigrant entries as well as the numbers within each nonimmigrant category, among other data.
Section 5: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System Verification (SEVIS): Section 5 requires the information found within SEVIS to be available to CBP who are at the port of entry when conducting initial screening for nonimmigrant travelers into the United States.
GT will monitor the Homeland Security Committee’s consideration of this legislation and will provide updates in relation to the bill’s progress in the House of Representatives.