A Sound Visa Policy: The Heritage Foundation's Research

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A Sound Visa Policy: The Heritage Foundation's Research

July 12, 2006 9 min read
The Heritage Foundation

In fiscal year 2000, a record 33.7 million visitors, students, and temporary workers passed through U.S. borders. In a post- 9/11 world, visas are a front line of defense against terrorism, but also the means by which millions gain access to the American Dream. A sound visa policy must combine security needs with opportunities for workers and students "yearning to breathe free." Visas are also an important part of U.S. relations with allied countries, and the U.S. must use visas to help our friends and strengthen our relationships. Heritage research has focused on how to reform visa programs to ensure these goals are met. Transferring visa oversight to the Department of Homeland Security and consolidating intelligence and screening procedures increases security and helps fight terrorism. Expanding the Visa Waiver Program will help bring allied nations closer and promote our common goals. Reshaping temporary worker programs will help our economy and give the right people a chance at the American Dream.


Visa Waiver Initiative in Senate Immigration Bill Falls Short

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #1099

May 31, 2006


The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows most visitors from participating countries to enter the United States for up to 90 days without a visa if they have valid passports from their countries. The program can be an effective way of both facilitating travel and frustrating the efforts of terrorists seeking to enter the United States. Since 9/11, however, nothing has been done to expand the use of this tool.



A Visa Reform Plan for Congress

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Executive Memorandum #1001

May 25, 2006


Foreign travel to America has still not recovered to pre-9/11 levels, and congressional inaction threatens to undermine the competitiveness of U.S. society. By developing an action plan to speed the visa process and expanding the Visa Waiver Program, Congress can both reestablish America's reputation as a welcoming country and make the nation more secure against foreign threats.



The SAFE Visa: A Good Starting Point for a Truly Temporary Guest Worker Proposal

by Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D.
WebMemo #1087

May 19, 2006


Sen. Hutchison's SAFE amendment to the Senate's immigration bill would create a reasonable guest worker program that is truly temporary in nature, does not give amnesty to those here illegally today, and otherwise respects America's rule of law. This proposal should replace the flawed H-2C guest worker program.



Road Maps for Visa Waiver Program Lead Nowhere

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Executive Memorandum #993

February 17, 2006


The proposed "road maps" for countries interested in participating in the Visa Waiver Program are a good first step, but they are not sufficient to meet U.S. economic and security concerns and do not address all of the legal criteria for VWP admission. Congress needs to give the Administration authority to negotiate more aggressive plans for VWP expansion.



With a Little Help from Our Friends: Enhancing Security by Expanding the Visa Waiver Program

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Executive Memorandum #991

February 3, 2006


The VWP enhances security by setting common standards and promotes economic growth and cultural ties. Congress should use the VWP more effectively by giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) broader authority to expand the program to other countries.



"Recapturing" Visas: A Sensible Temporary Fix for America's Foreign Worker Problem

by Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., and Tim Kane, Ph.D.
WebMemo #886

October 19, 2005


The United States continues to be the land of opportunity, and immigrants want to come here to take part in the American Dream. Foreign workers factor prominently into that philosophy, and Congress should make sure that America continues to allow productive individuals into the country.



The Visa Process: Strategic Direction for a 21st Century System

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

September 13, 2005


As the Congress looks at the broad scope of visa issuance and management programs, in addition to rethinking the overall strategic direction of these efforts, there are several specific issues that it might consider: a visa waiver program, a terrorist screening center, state and local support for immigration enforcement, the consolidation of border support agencies, a visa security program, and a homeland security university.


Including South Korea in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program

by Balbina Y. Hwang
Backgrounder #1872

July 25, 2005


As the United States works to improve its alli­ance with South Korea, it should demonstrate that America is committed to working with its partner to develop a mature relationship by paying atten­tion to issues such as visas that, although seemingly minor from the U.S. perspective, affect South Korean pride and sensibility. South Korea's inclu­sion in the VWP will go far in improving relations with one of America's most important allies.


Building the Alliance for Freedom: An Agenda for Improving and Expanding the Visa Waiver Program

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Richard Weitz, Ph.D.
Backgrounder #1850

May 6, 2005


The imper­ative to expand the network of free nations that share security and economic concerns argues that the United States must work to enlarge the VWP, not by reducing requirements to "lower the bar," but by working with countries to help them meet the VWP criteria.


Insource More Jobs by Raising the H-1B Visa Cap

by Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D.
WebMemo #585

October 13, 2004


The H-1B visa program is one way for U.S. companies to recruit highly trained and specialized workers from other countries. Currently, the demand for new visas greatly exceeds the supply set by Congress. The limit on such visas should be expanded or eliminated so that more technical jobs and opportunities-as well as the attendant economic benefits-can be realized here in America.



E-Passports: A Strategy for Long-Term Success

by Ha Nguyen, Paul Rosenzweig, and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Executive Memorandum #921

April 13, 2004


Effective implementation of the e-passport program is essential to homeland security. To this end, the Bush Administration should push the ICAO to promulgate clear and cohesive international e-passport guidelines, and Congress should consolidate all visa operations within the Department of Homeland Security.


Better Intelligence Sharing for Visa Issuance and Monitoring: An Imperative for Homeland Security

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Ha Nguyen
Backgrounder #1699

October 27, 2003


Better intelligence sharing for the visa issuance process is a crucial aspect of the war on terrorism. Through legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act and the Administration's organizational initiatives such as the TTIC and the TSC, the Administration and Congress have laid out a road map for achieving better intelligence sharing.


Providing Security, Fairness, and Efficiency in the Immigration Deportation Processes

by Michael Scardaville
Backgrounder #1670

July 21, 2003


The DHS must establish a more efficient screening process to identify individuals who should be detained based on intelligence data, not coincidence. At the root of this effort should be the establishment of a Removable Alien Screening and Clearance Center in the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, dedicated to investigating arrested aliens for ties to terrorism.



Why The Department of Homeland Security Should Control Visas

by John J. Tkacik, Jr.

July 15, 2002


The DHS Visa Office must take the responsibility of training, indoctrinating and equipping visa officers abroad, and ensuring that they or their supervisors have access to the relevant intelligence and name-check databases needed to screen alien visa applicants effectively.


Why the Department of Homeland Security Should Control Visas

by John J. Tkacik, Jr.
Backgrounder #1569

July 12, 2002


Section 403 of the Administration's proposed Homeland Security Act recognizes that effective homeland defense requires the new Department of Homeland Security to control visa policies and functions, and that the Secretary of Homeland Security have exclusive authority over the process. Moreover, the DHS must have a meaningful presence overseas. Giving DHS control and authority is meaningless unless the Visa Office in the Department of State, which controls visa policy, is transferred to DHS.


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