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Visa Security Policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security

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Foreign nationals i.e., aliens not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted. Under current law, three departments -- the Department of State DOS, the Department of Homeland Security DHS, and the Department of Justice DOJ -- play key roles in administering the law and policies on the admission of aliens. DOSs Bureau of Consular Affairs Consular Affairs is responsible for issuing visas, DHSs Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau USCIS is charged with approving immigrant petitions, DHSs Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE operates the Visa Security Program in selected embassies abroad, and DHSs Customs and Border Protection Bureau CBP is tasked with inspecting all people who enter the United States. DOJs Executive Office for Immigration Review EOIR has a significant policy role through its adjudicatory decisions on specific immigration cases. The case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly attempted to ignite an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009, refocused attention on the responsibilities of the Departments of State and Homeland Security for the visa process. He was traveling on a multi-year, multiple-entry tourist visa issued to him in June 2008. State Department officials have acknowledged that Abdulmutallabs father came into the Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on November 19, 2009, to express his concerns about his son, and that those officials at the Embassy in Abuja sent a cable to the National Counterterrorism Center. State Department officials maintain they had insufficient information to revoke his visa at that time. In the aftermath of the Abdulmutallab case, policymakers explored what went wrong and whether statutory and procedural revisions were needed. The 112th Congress continues to be interested in issues pertinent to visa security.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law

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