RECENT STATE DEPARTMENT NEWS ITEMS

Thứ Tư, 01 Tháng Hai 201200:00(Xem: 37661)
RECENT STATE DEPARTMENT NEWS ITEMS
The Department of State’s Office of Passport Services has started a 90-day pilot program allowing adult U.S. citizens living in the United States and Canada to apply for a passport card online. By applying online, customers will not be required to mail in their current passport book and necessary forms, saving them time and money.
 
To participate in this program, applicants must currently possess a valid 10-year U.S. passport book, upload an acceptable digital photograph and make an online payment in U.S. dollars via Pay.gov.
 
The Department of State began producing the passport card in 2008. The wallet-sized passport card is a low-cost alternative to the passport book. The U.S. passport card costs $30 for current passport book holders, and is valid for land and sea travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. It is not valid for international air travel.
 
To apply for the passport card using the online application, visit travel.state.gov.

Item Two: State Department Visa Pilot Program. President Obama has announced that the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working together to improve and speed up the visa process for certain categories of travelers.
 
Under a new rule, in certain circumstances, qualified foreign visitors who were interviewed and thoroughly screened for a prior visa application may be able to renew their visas without undergoing another interview.
 
This pilot program will streamline visa processing for certain low-risk applicants, such as individuals renewing expired visas, or some categories of younger or older first-time applicants. 
 
The State Department expects that this will benefit tens of thousands of applicants in Brazil and China; saving them time and money, and encouraging them to choose to visit the United States again.
 
However, given that national security remains this Administration’s highest priority, individuals identified as higher-risk will remain subject to interviews — in addition to the full screening and review that all visa applicants receive. Consular officers will continue to use their authority to interview any visa applicant as required for national security.
 
The recent State Department announcement about this pilot program did not give specific details about how previous visitors to the States could renew their visas without another interview. We assume that when they submit their new B2 application, Consulate officials will note their previous visits and, if appropriate, approve the new visa request without an interview.
 
Item Three: Revised list of countries whose citizens are eligible for H2A and H2B visas. 
 
H2A and H2B visas are non-immigrant visas for temporary workers. The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State recently identified 58 countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs for the coming
year. New countries on this year's list include Haiti, Iceland, Montenegro, Spain, and Switzerland.
 
In designating countries to include on the list, the US government takes into account the
evidence of past usage of the H-2A and H-2B programs by nationals of the countries on the approved list.
 
Vietnam has never appeared on the list of countries approved for H2A or H2B visas. Out of all the Southeast Asian nations, only four countries are on the list: Japan,
New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Korea.
 
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Q.1. Can the Passport Card be used for travel between the US and Vietnam?
 
A.1. The passport card is not valid for international air travel, but it can be used as proof of US citizenship while in another country. In that way it is safer and more convenient than carrying your US passport with you all the time while staying abroad.
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Q.2. The Philippines has a standard of living similar to Vietnam, but it is on the list of approved countries for H2A and H2B visas while Vietnam is not. What could be the reason for this?
 
A.2. The State Department has sufficient evidence that Filipinos who get H2A/2B visas usually return home when their visas expire. Until now, the State Department is not convinced that the same would be true if H2A/B visas were issued to residents of Vietnam. Some other Asian countries that are not on the approved list are China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
 
 
ROBERT MULLINS INTERNATIONAL www.rmiodp.com
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