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

The ABCs of Immigration - The Visa Waiver Program
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

Started as a pilot program in 1986 and made permanent in 2000, the Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of designated countries to enter the US as business or tourist visitors for up to 90 days without requiring them to obtain a visa. Millions of people use the program each year. There are currently 29 countries participating in the program: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. However, Argentina will be eliminated on March 1, 2002. Also, the participation of Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay is being reviewed. The applicant for entry under the Visa Waiver Program must be a citizen of the participating country, not merely a permanent resident. In the case of the United Kingdom, the person must be a British citizen, not a British overseas citizen or citizen of a Commonwealth nation.

Every five years, the participation of designated countries must be reviewed. To continue participation, the rejection rate of applications for B-1/B-2 visas for that country cannot be over three percent. The country must allow US citizens to visit under the same terms as the US allows the countryís citizens to enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program. Also, by October 1, 2003, countries must issue machine readable passports to continue participation. When the program was made permanent in 2000, a provision was included that allows for the immediate termination of a country in the event of an emergency such as a war or economic collapse.

The applicant for entry must show that they have the financial resources to support themselves during their stay in the US. Those who arrive by boat or plane must have a return ticket. Upon arrival, the applicant completes an I-94W. On this form, the applicant indicates that they waive the right to a hearing in the event they are ordered deported, and that they understand they cannot apply for an extension or change of status in the US. Therefore, if the purpose of a personís visit to the US is to investigate possible employment or education, they should obtain a traditional B-1/B-2 visa.

There is one exception to the rule that a person cannot change their status after entering the US under the Visa Waiver Program covering people who are applying for adjustment of status as the immediate relative of a US citizen or under section 245(i).


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 defenderís 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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