Send your comments to DOS on the new rule of Third Country Visa

While most immigrants and alien visitors are protesting the INS proposed changes on B status, we should not ignore another change made by Department of State on Third Country Visa.

A Third Country Visa is a process whereby an alien, who is already in the US, can apply for a non-immigrant visa with a US Consulate located in Mexico or Canada. It was beneficial to the alien applicant in that the federal regulation (22 CFR 41.112(d)) states an alien, even without a valid visa, can re-enter the U.S. within 30 days after his trip to Mexico or Canada, as long as the alien has a valid I-94 form at the time of entry.

However, beginning on April 1, 2002, in light of the September 11 event, the US Department of State adopts a new Interim Rule, amending the 22 CFR 41.112(d), that the Third Country Visa applicants are no longer eligible for the benefits of the above-mentioned rule. (You may click here for the original content of the Interim Rule.) This interim rule deprives the significant benefit from non-immigrant aliens, particularly F, H, J and M holders.

According to the new rule, an alien may still apply for a non-immigrant visa with a US consulate located in Mexico or Canada. But if he/she cannot obtain the visa, he/she may not re-enter the US even he/she has a valid I-94 form at the time of entry and stays in Mexico or Canada within 30 days. Of course, if the visa application is approved, he/she may use the visa to reenter the US. (Normally, at least two entries are granted under a Third Country Visa.) In this end, the Third Country Visa applicant may face the same risk when he/she applies for the visa in his/her home country.

While the new rule is for the purpose of the U.S. national security, we believe it is not reasonable and rational because it does not serve the intended purpose.

First of all, cutting off the benefits of the Third Country Visa to most aliens with legal status in the US is not in compliance with the US fundamental interests. It will unnecessarily handicap the regular and mutual beneficial culture and personnel exchanges between the US and other countries, because it causes great troubles and inconveniences to most decent aliens in the US to apply for a visa from the US government.

Second, It is understood that the new Interim Rule is implemented for the security purpose of screening of visa applicants as an anti-terrorism measure. However, all Third Country Visa applicants had entered the United States and had already been in the United Stated for some while before they leave for Mexico or Canada. Terrorist may do anything they wish upon their arrival in the U.S. They need not to leave U.S. to apply for Third Country Visa and then reenter the U.S. Thus, this interim rule makes no sense on this point, and it totally cannot deter terrorists.

Third, we think it does not help the US Department of State to effectively administrate the visa application for anti-terrorism in that the terrorists may still use false information to obtain the visa and enter the US. On the other hand, the new Interim Rule literally penalizes those innocent people for their legitimate acts - applying visas from the US government while it does not deter terrorists as intended.

The US Department of State is requesting for written comments on the new Interim Rule until May 6, 2002. Since the deadline is approaching, we strongly recommend you write to them for your concern and opinion on this new rule and request the US Department of State restore the old rule for the original benefits of the Third Country Visa processing. If you are an alien legally staying in the US, please tell your US friends about your concern on this new rule and let them speak for you to the US Department of State.

Written comments may be submitted, in duplicate, to the Legislation and Regulations Division, Visa Services, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-0106, or by e-mail to Furthermore, you may contact Elizabeth J. Harper, Legislation and Regulations Division, Visa Services, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-0106, phone (202) 663-1221, e-mail ( or fax at (202) 663-3898 for this matter.


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