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The Delamere-International Newsletter ©

Edition of 24 April, 2002 (Special Edition) #109

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IN THIS SPECIAL ISSUE

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U.S. VISA-WAIVER PROGRAM IN JEOPARDY ARGENTINA IS FIRST COUNTRY TO BE EXCLUDED

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The U.S. has banned Argentineans from coming to the United States without a visa because of worries about a growing exodus of visitors seeking to flee their economically ravaged nation and find a permanent - if illegal - home in North America.

The emergency order by the Justice Department marks the first time the United States has thrown any country out of its visa waiver program, which allows nearly 17 million business travelers and tourists a year from 28 other nations to by-pass the normal U.S. visa process.

The United States is examining the visa waiver status of other countries - including Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay - because of concerns about potential abuses. Those reviews were planned before Sept. 11, 2001 but the terrorist attacks sped the process as authorities pushed for wide scale reforms to plug cracks in the immigration system. The Justice Department's decision could also intensify debate about the future of the visa waiver program as a whole.

Out of about 30 million short term entries a year by foreigners into the United States, more than half are from the visa-waiver countries, which include France, Germany and Britain, along with several smaller countries.

To qualify for the waiver program, countries are supposed to meet several criteria, including political and economic stability, passport security and a low refusal rate by U.S. officials of their visa requests.

Argentine visitors, numbering more than 400,000 a year under the visa waiver program, now will have to go through the time and paperwork of getting a visa before they leave Argentina.

The decision is not intended as a "punishment", said Christopher Lamora, a spokesman for the State Department's bureau of consular affairs. "The decision is in order to make sure that the U.S. government can effectively enforce U.S. immigration laws." The Immigration and Naturalization Service said the change is a step toward preventing illegal overstays. However, the Justice Department's decision could also intensify debate about the future of the visa waiver program as a whole.

Out of about 30 million short term entries a year by foreigners into the United States, more than half are from the visa-waiver countries, which include France, Germany and Britain, and several smaller countries.

We will have more details in our regular Newsletter to be issued on 30 April, 2002.

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