The Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued report on legislative developments in visa policy over the past 20 years and analysis of statistical trends in visa issuances and grounds for exclusion.
The conventional wisdom is that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, prompted a substantive change in U.S. immigration policy on visa issuances and the grounds for excluding foreign nationals from the United States. A series of laws enacted in the 1990s, however, may have done as much or more to set current U.S. visa policy and the legal grounds for exclusion.
Foreign nationals not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted. Those admitted on a permanent basis are known as immigrants or legal permanent residents (LPRs), while those admitted on a temporary basis are known as nonimmigrants (such as tourists, foreign students, diplomats,temporary agricultural workers, and exchange visitors). They must first meet a set of criteria specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that determine whether they are eligible for admission.
The burden of proof is on the foreign national to establish eligibility for a visa. Conversely, foreign nationals also must not be deemed inadmissible according to other specified grounds in §212(a) of the INA. These §212(a) inadmissibility criteria are health-related grounds; criminal history; security and terrorist concerns; public charge (e.g., indigence); seeking to work without proper labor certification; illegal entrants and immigration law violations; ineligible for citizenship; and aliens illegally present or previously removed.
The number of aliens excluded on the basis of §212(a) of the INA has fluctuated over the years. In FY2008, §212(a) exclusions of prospective nonimmigrants hit 35,403 and surpassed the prior high point of 34,750 in FY1998. For prospective LPRs, §212(a) exclusions peaked in FY1998 and FY1999, reaching over 89,000 in both years. The §212(a) exclusions of prospective LPRs fell from FY2000 through FY2003, then began climbing to reach 77,080 in FY2008.
Exclusions of nonimmigrant petitions have a somewhat different pattern than that of immigrant petitions. Violations of immigration law were the leading category from FY1994 through FY2006, but fell to the second ranking by FY2008. Illegal presence and prior removal became the leading ground in FY2008. Over time, criminal activity has become a more common ground for refusal, and has represented a lwas for immigrant petitioners.
Legislation aimed at comprehensive immigration reform may take a fresh look at the grounds for excluding foreign nationals enacted over the past two decades. Expanding the grounds for inadmissibility, conversely, might be part of a more restrictive immigration reform policies. Whatever the final solution will be, reform of our current system is needed, and now more than ever.
Download the report here Download file