Apr 23 2019

White House Directs Agencies to Tighten B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa Enforcement

United States

At a glance

  • A new Presidential Memorandum orders immigration agencies to develop plans that would reduce B-1 business visitor and B-2 tourist overstays in the United States, including those under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • The Memorandum also orders the agencies to develop enforcement proposals focused on countries with nonimmigrant overstay rates over 10%.
  • The directive does not have an immediate impact on B-1/B-2 visas or the Visa Waiver Program, but could result in future restrictions.

The issue

A new Presidential Memorandum directs the Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to recommend ways to reduce the number of B-1 and B-2 visitors who overstay their authorized period of admission in the United States, including those who use the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), as well as to take actions to reduce the overstay rates for nonimmigrant visa categories generally.

The Memo directs federal immigration agencies to do the following:

  • Visa Waiver Program recommendations: Within 180 days, DHS must report to President Trump on its ongoing efforts to reduce VWP overstays, as well as provide recommendations for further enforcement with respect to the program.   
  • Targeted enforcement for countries with more than 10% B visa overstay rate: DOS, in conjunction with DHS and the Department of Justice, must provide President Trump with recommendations to reduce B overstays from countries with overstay rates over 10%, as identified by the DHS FY 2018 Entry/Exit Overstay Report. Proposed actions against nationals of these countries could include suspension or limitation of travel for current B visa holders, suspension of B visa issuance, limits to duration of admission to the U.S., and/or additional documentary requirements. Agency recommendations are required to be submitted to the President within 120 days of the Memo.
  • Take action to reduce overstay rates for all nonimmigrant visa types: DOS and DHS are ordered to “immediately” take action to reduce the overstay rates of all types of nonimmigrant visas. The memorandum specifically directs DOS and DHS to develop measures to impose admission bonds as a means of enforcing visa compliance across all nonimmigrant categories and submit a status report to the President on this issue within 120 days.

What the Presidential Memorandum means for employers and foreign nationals

The Memorandum does not have immediate impact on the B-1/B-2 visa program or the Visa Waiver Program, but is part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing focus on visitor visa compliance and enforcement. The Administration has recently added a biometrics screening requirement and new enforcement initiatives for certain nonimmigrants seeking to extend their stays in the United States, including visitors for business and tourism. The Department of Homeland Security is planning to issue a proposed regulation later this year that could place new limits on the visitor visa category.

Increased scrutiny of the visitor visa program and overstays generally highlights the vital importance of compliance with immigration program rules. Organizations may want to take steps to review their business visitor procedures to ensure compliance. All foreign nationals temporarily in the U.S. should ensure they are admitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the correct duration, and that they depart the United States by the expiration of their period of authorized stay. Foreign nationals can view their official duration of authorized stay at the CBP I-94 website.  

Fragomen is monitoring the agency responses to the Presidential Memorandum and will provide updates as they occur.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.