Travelers who already have visas to the United States may be able to get them faster next year.
At the same time, tougher requirements to get into the country could get in the way of thousands of foreigners who want to visit a US school or take a class, a former Department of Homeland Security official said Monday.
Jonathan Sylla, a scholar with the Migration Policy Institute and a former advisor to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, pointed to both changes in government policy and technological developments that will make it easier for Americans to see visa holders who are already living and working in the United States.
He said that the first change is the order President Trump put in place after he was inaugurated in January 2017 ordering immigration agencies to “revisit” millions of visas that had expired or otherwise had not been issued in recent years.
Sylla called Trump’s order a “clear effort to roll back a lot of the significant changes” Homeland Security made in recent years. The executive order suspends the issuance of any new visas unless the visa holder is sponsoring an immediate family member, which has made its way into other policy changes at DHS.
Sylla said that since 2005, the U.S. had cut the length of a most visas in half and lowered the number of countries the U.S. deals with.
“A lot of progress had been made in terms of shortening the visa process,” Sylla said. “I don’t think you could say that U.S. citizens’ lives have ever been more secure. I think that all of us in the Obama administration benefited from having pretty easy visas and the fact that a lot of cases were pushed back, or the assertion that visas were not reliable. The sky was really not falling. We had big trade agreements with various partners all across the world. So while it was understandable to have some changes … for my successor I think it was sort of a ‘we’re tightening it up a little bit’ type of approach.”
To enhance standards, Homeland Security is changing how it issues initial interviews for refugees and foreigners traveling to the United States for business and to meet educational requirements. Applicants under the previous system were given the option of hearing their decision directly from an immigration officer and not through an interpreter or a case officer.
The new interviewing system makes sure every applicant has a chance to speak with an immigration officer directly, which means fewer travelers have their requests approved.