INS seeking to change rules for tourist status |

INS seeking to change rules for tourist status

Veronica Whitney

“We could do this because he had sufficient time in a non-immigrant status (six months) to ask for an extension of his stay and then file the case,” says Sienna La Rene, an immigration attorney in Edwards. “Otherwise, he would have had to go home and wait for a year or longer.”

A proposed change of existing regulations by the Immigration and Naturalization Service could reduce the six-month minimum stay for tourists to, in most cases, 30 days. Also under the new rules, tourist and business travelers maximum stay would be cut in half, from one year to six months.

“The new regulations could have a huge effect in the valley because an enormous amount of people come here without an intention to work,” La Rene says. “But when the opportunity arises, they have time to apply for a change of status and apply for a work authorization without leaving the country.”

The proposed change on admission procedures would make it more difficult to apply for that change of status and much too short to begin an immigrant case unless they return homewhile the case is pending, La Rene adds.

“It can take as long as four months to change the status of a visa, but as long as you file a case before the period of admission expires, you’re fine,” she says. “But if you’re only admitted for 30 days and you want to file an extension or change of status, the presumption will be that you already knew when you entered that you wanted to stay.

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“This will hurt the overall job market in a cumulative way.”

Vail Resorts’ Les Marsh, director for human resources at Vail and Beaver Creek, says a change in the regulations will not hurt the company’s staffing. Only 2 percent of the 1,200 international employees hired by Vail Resorts for the winter came over with a B-2, or tourist visa, and changed to an H-2B visa, or skilled/unskilled labor visa, Marsh said.

“This is not an issue for us, it almost never happens,” Marsh says. “Most of our visas are far ahead in the process, so we won’t see this as an impact.”

Small companies, however, could feel the impacts far more, La Rene says.

“For example, construction and landscaping businesses may feel the impact,” she says.

The proposed admission changes could also establish greater control over a visitor’s ability to extend or exchange status to that of a student. The measures aim to maintain control of the alien population within the United States and lessen the probability that visitors will establish permanent ties and remain in the country illegally.

“These new rules strike the appropriate balance between the INS’ mission to ensure that our nation’s immigration laws are followed and stop illegal immigration and our desire to welcome legitimate visitors to the United States,” says INS commissioner James Ziglar. “While we recognize that the overwhelming majority of people who come to the United States as visitors are honest and law-abiding, the events of Sept. 11 remind us that there will always be those who seek to cause us harm.”

La Rene, however, says she doesn’t see the security concern.

“People with evil intentions also file changes of status, but they don’t need to do it to stay in the country,” she says. “This will just make it harder for people with legitimate reasons to be in the country.”

Under the proposed regulations, both tourists and business travelers will continue to be eligible to apply for extensions of stay, but only in cases that have resulted from unexpected events, such as an emergency or continuing medical treatment.

Those who request an extension of status would have to furnish proof of adequate financial resources to continue the temporary stay and the maintenance of a residence abroad. Such proof could be bank records and lease or property ownership documents.

The new admission procedures would not be retroactive, meaning it would not affect foreigners who were admitted to the U.S. at any time prior to the effective date of a final ruling by the INS.

The INS-proposed changes would:

– Eliminate the minimum six-month admission period for tourists, instead basing the period on the amount of time needed to accomplish the purpose of the trip – in many cases 30 days.

– Reduce the maximum admission for tourists and business travelers from a year to six months.

– Limit the ability of some visitors to obtain an extension and reduce the maximum length of that extension.

– Make it more difficult for visitors to extend status or exchange status to that of a student. The proposed rule may require visitors to notify the INS upon initial entry of their intent to begin a course of study in the U.S. or may require the person to obtain student status prior to entering the country.

(Note: These proposed rules are subject to a public comment.)

Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at

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