US orders new visa checks for arriving students following Boston Marathon bombings
Saturday 04 May 2013
The US Homeland Security Department ordered border agents to verify that every international student who arrives in the country has a valid student visa. The new procedure is the government's first security change directly related to the Boston Marathon bombings last month.
The order, effective immediately, was issued by a senior official at
US Customs and Border Protection, David J. Murphy. It was circulated on Thursday, a day after the Obama administration acknowledged that a student from Kazakhstan accused of hiding evidence for one of the Boston
bombing suspects was allowed to return to the US in January without a
valid student visa.
The student visa for Azamat Tazhayakov had been terminated when he arrived in New York on 20 January. But the border agent in the airport did not have access to the information in the Homeland Security Department's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, called SEVIS.
Tazhayakov was a friend and classmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Tazhayakov left the US in December and returned 20 January. But in early January, his student-visa status was terminated because he was academically dismissed from the university.
Tazhayakov and a second Kazakh student were arrested this week on federal charges of obstruction of justice. They were accused of helping to get rid of a backpack containing fireworks linked to Tsarnaev. A third student was also arrested and accused of lying to authorities.
A spokesman for the department, Peter Boogaard, said earlier this week that the government was working to fix the problem, which allowed Tazhayakov to be admitted into the country when he returned to the US.
Under existing procedures, border agents could verify a student's status in SEVIS only when the person was referred to a second officer for additional inspection or questioning. Tazhayakov was not sent to a second officer when he arrived, because, Boogaard said, there was no information to indicate Tazhayakov was a national security threat. Under the new procedures, all border agents were expected to be able to access SEVIS by next week.
The government for years has recognized as a problem the inability of border agents at primary inspection stations to directly review student-visa information. The Homeland Security Department was working before the bombings to resolve the problem, but the new memo outlined interim procedures until the situation was corrected.
Under the new procedures, border agents will verify a student's visa status before the person arrives in the US using information provided in flight manifests. If that information is unavailable, border agents will check the visa status manually with the agency's national targeting data center.
It is unclear what impact the new procedure will have on wait times at airports and borders. Customs officials will be required to report any effect, including longer waits, on a daily basis.
The Obama administration announced an internal review earlier this week of how U.S. intelligence agencies shared sensitive information before the bombings and whether the government could have prevented the attack. Republicans in Congress have promised oversight hearings, which begin Thursday.
Lawmakers and others have long been concerned about terrorists exploiting the student visa system to travel to the United States. A 20-year-old college student from Saudi Arabia was arrested in Texas in 2011 on federal charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Authorities accused him of plotting to blow up dams, nuclear plants or the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush. He was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...