The Department of Homeland Security recently published amendments to the regulation governing the US-VISIT program. This Final Rule, which will become effective January 18, 2009, requires all non citizens (with some exceptions noted below), including lawful permanent residents, to register with US-VISIT, upon admission to the United States. US-VISIT is the electronic registration program implemented at land, air and sea ports in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The program has been implemented in stages over the past few years, and now requires all visitors and temporary residents to register at a US-VISIT kiosk upon admission to the United States. Non citizens are required to provide biometric data, meaning fingerprints and electronic photographs, as the system registers both admissions and departures. Effective January 18, 2009, the program has been extended to permanent residents returning to the United States from a temporary trip abroad.
Canadian visitors, diplomats (A, G and NATO status), children under 14 and individuals over 79 are not required to register. All other nonimmigrants (visitors, students and temporary workers) and permanent residents will be required to register with US-VISIT upon arrival. Registration at departure is also required, but has not yet been implemented in all airports, seaports and land borders.
We anticipate that the implementation of this regulation will permit the Department of Homeland Security to closely monitor the dates of arrival, departure, and periods of absence for permanent residents. Applications for naturalization require proof that the permanent resident was physically present in the United States for at least 50% of the qualifying period (5 years as a permanent resident, reduced to 3 years for spouses of U.S. citizens). Absences for more than 6 months constitute a break in the period of residence. Moreover, an absence of 180 days or longer triggers a different legal standard for returning residents, and requires the resident to demonstrate that he or she did not intend to abandon the permanent resident status. Residents therefore should keep records of their departure and return travel dates, properly plan for lengthy absences and consult immigration counsel if they have questions concerning the potential impact of such absences upon their lawful permanent resident status.