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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

The ABCs of Immigration - Inadmissibility - Security Grounds
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

US immigration law makes a variety of security related concerns grounds for inadmissibility. Over the past ten years, there have been a number of changes in this area, responding to changing world conditions. Indeed, given the tragic events of last week, more changes in this area should be expected in the near future.

If a consular officer or INS inspector either knows or has a reasonable basis for believing that the applicant for admission is seeking to enter the US to engage in espionage or sabotage, or to obtain for export goods or technology that have been identified as not for export, the applicant is to be denied admission. One of the areas in which this ground is a particular concern is that of foreign students coming to the US to study in a field listed on the State Department’s Technology Alert List. Visa applicants who seek to participate in such fields face close scrutiny, and in most cases must obtain a security advisory opinion from the State Department. Such opinions are required for nationals of countries that sponsor terrorism. There are no waivers for this ground of inadmissibility except for cases dealing with export control issues.

Foreign nationals are also inadmissible for terrorist activities. Specifically, a person is inadmissible if they have engaged in terrorist activities, if a consular officer or INS inspector knows or has reason to believe that the person is currently or will in the future engage in terrorist activities, if the person has incited terrorist activity, or if the person is a representative or member of a terrorist organization designated by the State Department.

Under the current rules for designating a terrorist organization, three elements must be present. The organization must be based in a foreign country, it must engage in terrorist activity, which is defined to include hijacking and sabotage, kidnapping if done to force government action, assassination, use of biological, chemical or nuclear devices, or an explosive or firearm with the intent to endanger people or property, and threatening or conspiring to do any of these things, and the organization must threaten US security. Even if it has been years since the organization engaged in terrorist activities, it may still be considered a terrorist organization if it retains the capacity and inclination to engage in terrorism.

In the past, the State Department has instructed consular officers to “err on the side of caution” in dealing with applications that might be denied on terrorist grounds. Whether this remains the case in the future, however, remains to be seen.

If the State Department determines that a person’s entry to the US would have adverse consequences on US foreign policy, the person is inadmissible. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, the ground of inadmissibility does not apply to officials of a foreign government simply because of statements they may have made. In these cases, the person is admissible only if their admission would create a “clear negative foreign policy impact”. Second, a person cannot be deemed inadmissible because of past statements that would be legal in the US unless their entry would compromise competing US foreign policy interests.

Membership in a communist or other totalitarian party makes a person inadmissible, but there are a number of exceptions to this rule. The primary exception eliminates membership that was involuntary, while under age 16, automatic by operation of law or necessary to obtain a job from the basis for inadmissibility. Another exception applies to people who have renounced their membership in the party at least two years prior to the visa application admissible if it is determined that they are not a threat to the US. If the person’s country is still controlled by a communist or totalitarian government, the renunciation must have occurred at least five years prior to the visa application. Finally, people who are close family members of US citizens and permanent residents are eligible for a waiver of this ground of inadmissibility.

The last security related ground of inadmissibility applies to people who were participants in Nazi era persecutions and those who have engaged in genocide.


About The Author

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defender’s office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com



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