04 January 2012

US Congress to probe questionable US visa allegations

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The US Congress is to investigate claims immigrations officers are being pressured into approving dubious or unsuitable visa applications.

US visa

US Congress will investigate claims immigration officials are being pressured to approve visas.

A 40 page report drafted by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General which was not intended for public release has been leaked to external sources. The report allegedly details the considerable pressure that immigration officials are under to fast track American visa applications, sometimes without regard for concerns about fraud, eligibility or even security.

Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary Lamar Smith said that the claims detailed in the report threaten "the integrity of [the American] immigration system. It's outrageous that administration officials would compromise national security for their own political agenda and gain."

The immigration subcommittee intends to hold a hearing in February on visa fraud to investigate allegations that up to a quarter of the immigration officers questions claimed they had been urged to approve questionable cases and even that one individual was demoted for denying too many applications.

A spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services categorically denied that any employee would face retaliation for denying US visa applications, that the agency "takes seriously the responsibility to safeguard the integrity of America's immigration system" and that the number of fraud detection officers had been increased in the last two years to over 750.

The findings of the report have been brought into question with many people speaking out in defence of the immigration system: President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Eleanor Pelta suggested that any officers' feelings of pressure to approve applications may simply be a response to efforts to updated means of testing and that "when headquarters reminds the field staff that that’s the standard of review, often what we see is that the field says headquarters is pressuring them to approve cases."

The report's findings are sure to add fuel to the fire as the 2012 Presidential Election gathers momentum, in which immigration is certain to be a hot topic.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people with their ESTA visa application.

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