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Trasit Without Visa Program
by Arthur L. Zabenko

Several recent items in the Federal Register address changes to the Transit Without Visa ("TWOV") program. The TWOV program allows the INS, acting jointly with the Department of State, to waive the passport and visa requirement for aliens from certain countries who request immediate and continuous transit privileges through the US. This waiver allows an alien to transit the United States without a passport and visa provided the alien is traveling on a carrier signatory to an agreement with the INS in accordance with INA 233(c) and bears documentation establishing identity and nationality which permits the alien's entry into another country.

Since TWOV does not involve the issuance of a visa, the State Department's role administration of the program is minimal. For the most part the State Departments regulations are merely a restatement of the INS's regulations. The State Department does become involved, however, in the designation of those countries whose citizens are ineligible to utilize the TWOV.

In determining which countries may or may not TWOV, the State Department (in conjunction with the INS) will take into consideration such things as:

  1. Abuse of the TWOV privilege;
  2. Nonimmigrant visa refusal rates;
  3. The stability of the country;
  4. Whether citizens of the country are linked to terrorist activity, narcotics trafficking; or international criminal activity;
  5. Any Presidential proclamation restricting the entry of the country's citizens; and
  6. Security concerns.
Taking these factors into consideration the State Department and the INS have added to the list of countries whose citizens are eligible for TWOV. Due to the breakup of the former Soviet Union, citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan are now eligible to TWOV. Because of the democratization of the former Warsaw Pact countries, citizens of Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia may also TWOV. The TWOV privilege is also extended to citizens of Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia, formerly part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Added to the list of countries whose citiznes are not eligible for TWOV are Angola, Belarus, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, People's Republic of China, Congo (Brazzaville), Nigeria, Russia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.

The interim rules amended the critieria for designation and changing the countries whose citizens are or are not eligible are effective February 5, 2001. Comments will be accepted until March 6, 2001.

About The Author

Arthur L. Zabenko, Esq., is editor of Immigration Daily and Immigrant's Weekly. He was previously employed at Lubiner and Schmidt where he handled all types of immigration cases specializing in employment, family and asylum issues.