By Ray O’Hanlon
The Immigration and Naturalization Service is now considering arguments for and against a 30-day limit on most visitor visas that it wants to see become U.S. law.
A public comment period on the proposed visa time limit ended last week.
The INS will publish its final decision in the matter sometime between mid-June and mid-July.
If the proposed time limit is not amended, it will have particularly noticeable consequences for Irish business travelers to the U.S., tourists and people visiting relatives.
Under the proposed 30-day visa rule, a visitor or business traveler wanting to stay in the U.S. for longer than 30 days would have to return home after the 30-day period and apply for another visa.
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Should the INS implement the new procedures without amendment, an immediate effect will be that visitors to the U.S. from Ireland and other countries face the possibility of becoming undocumented aliens in a month, this as opposed to the six-month limit that currently stands as the marker beyond legitimacy and illegality.
And under existing law, that means a more rapid application of bars from the U.S. of three or 10 years, depending on the length of overstay.
One possible fallout of the new rule, should it take effect in its original form, is that relatives, especially elderly ones wanting to visit loved ones in America for extended periods, could face the risk of becoming undocumented.
Press reports citing the INS have indicated that extensions to the proposed 30-day visiting period will be difficult to obtain.
And any visa extension, if obtained, would last for only six months. Under current regulations a visa extension can stretch to a year.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the INS received 6,700 e-mails and over 300 letters during the public comment period.
Once it has made its final determination, the INS can implement the new regulations by simply publishing them in the Federal Register.