Foreign students face new INS deadlines and monitoring

Elizabeth Dunbar

New federal regulations announced Friday added 13 countries to a list the U.S. government will use to monitor foreigners living in the United States, causing many concerns for international students and their advisers.

All male foreigners age 16 and older with temporary visas from countries such as Lebanon, North Korea and Somalia – including international students – are required to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to be interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed.

“It’s kind of scary because it requires people to physically report to the INS office with deadlines that are pretty near,” said Craig Peterson, assistant director for University International Student and Scholar Services.

In August, the INS announced that men entering the United States who were from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria would be fingerprinted. Earlier this month, the new fingerprinting requirement was extended to include foreigners already in the United States.

On Friday, the INS announced through the Federal Register – the U.S. government’s publication of administrative regulations – that 13 other countries would be added to the list, causing international services staff to scramble to contact affected international students.

An INS offcial, who commented on the condition of anonymity, said foreigners from the first group of countries must report by Dec. 16, and the second group must report between Dec. 2 and Jan. 10.

“This is an effort to try to track people from countries that are on watch lists,” Peterson said, adding many of the countries have been labeled by the President George W. Bush administration as “sponsors of terrorism.”

The INS official said the new regulations, part of the new National Security Entry-Exit Regulation System enacted by Congress, will eventually include all countries.

“The government has indicated that this system should start with countries where al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have been,” the official said.

Though the INS official said the regulations involve fairly simple procedures, University students and staff are concerned about the logistics and implications of the new registration system.

“My concern is for those who fail to go or don’t have the information quickly enough to go before the deadline,” said Luis Bartolomei, the immigration attorney for the University Student Legal Service. Bartolomei added he is making himself available to students who want an attorney during the interview, which includes personal questions ranging from roommate names to organizations the students are involved with.

Consequences for foreigners who don’t show up are serious, the INS official said, and that could mean being deported.

Peterson said the international services office hasn’t heard from the INS about the regulations yet, but advisers were able to alert some students after finding the information on the Federal Register.

“There’s plenty of confusion out there about what’s going to happen with this,” he said.

The alert now appears on the international services office Web site, www.isss.umn.edu, and Peterson said the international services office plans to send out mailings about the requirement.

“This is a terrible time for this to happen with finals and everything,” Peterson said. “It’s certainly a different face we’re presenting to international students.”