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US State Department issues troubling new rule on visa compliance

In a cable sent to U.S. embassies worldwide, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that all visitors who require visas to come to the United States will have to follow through on the stated purpose of their trip for at least three months.

If, during the first three months of their stay, they do something they failed to mention in their consular interview, the U.S. government will presume that they deliberately lied. Intentionally lying in a visa application or consular interview would expose anyone still in the United States to deportation. Regardless of whether the traveler was still in the country, being found to have purposely lied to U.S. officials would make it much more difficult -- or impossible -- to get or renew a visa or to adjust their status to a different type of visa or to a green card.

Under current policy, changes in plans are only considered the result of willful misrepresentation if they take place during the first month of the visit.

"This is a significant policy change," said a spokesperson for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "If someone comes to the U.S. as a tourist, falls in love and gets married within 90 days and then applies for a green card, this means the application would be denied."

What happens if the traveler's plans change after three months have passed? In that case, the change would not be presumed to be the result of willful misrepresentation. However, the changes might still be considered problematic.

Generally, the new rule will not apply to citizens of 38 of the United States' closest allies and trading partners, such as most European countries, Australia and Japan. Citizens of these countries don't need visas or to describe a specific purpose or plan for their travel.

The rule will apply to most visitors from the Middle East, Africa and most of Asia. According to the New York Times, consular decisions about visas are among the greatest sources of tension between the U.s. and nations in those regions. In some areas, hundreds of people line up at embassies and consulates every day hoping to apply for a U.S. travel visa.

Citizens of the six countries covered by the Trump administration's travel ban will generally not see the effects of the rule since they are finding it virtually impossible to obtain visas at all.

The new rule is part of a policy by the Trump administration not only to crack down on illegal immigration but also to cut back on immigration altogether. In 2016, the U.S. issued over 10 million visas in an effort to support our large tourism industry.

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