U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed that a new visa foil design is being released for all nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. The current Lincoln visa foil will soon be replaced with a Bridge visa foil. Both visa foil designs will remain valid for travel to the United States until their printed expiration dates.
What Is a Visa?
A visa is a document issued by the U.S. Department of State that allows a foreign national to travel to the United States for various purposes. In order to obtain a visa, a foreign national typically must schedule an appointment and attend a visa interview at a U.S. consular post abroad. If the visa application is approved, the foreign national will receive a visa foil printed in his or her passport. Generally, the foreign national must present a visa to a CBP officer for admission to the United States. Upon entry, the foreign national will receive an electronic I-94 record, which provides evidence of his or her lawful status while in the United States.
Visa Security Features
The State Department periodically undertakes review of visa foil designs to develop and test new travel documents in its efforts to reduce U.S. immigration fraud. The redesign often takes several years to complete and typically is conducted in response to detected counterfeit attempts. Under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, the U.S. Congress mandated the use of biometrics in U.S. visas so that all foreign nationals must have a machine-readable visa (MRV) that is tamper resistant and includes biometric identifiers (that is, a digital photograph and fingerprints). CBP officers can then review the visa document and related biometric details to verify the identity of the foreign national entering the United States.
Lincoln Visa Foil
The current design for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas depicts President Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Capitol building and is referred to as the “Lincoln visa foil.” The Lincoln visa foil adopted improved security features over the previous design that had been in place since 1993. Enhancements to the Lincoln visa foil included security fibers, detailed printing, and biometric details. The Lincoln visa was developed over a period of four years and has been in use since 2002.
Bridge Visa Foil
The consular posts have now started issuing a redesigned visa to replace the Lincoln visa foil. The new visa design depicts the Golden Gate Bridge and is thus referred to as the “Bridge visa foil.” As consular posts deplete their stock of Lincoln visa foils, they will begin issuing the Bridge visa foil. According to CBP’s Carrier Liaison Program, “All Lincoln Visas will remain valid until the printed expiration date unless otherwise revoked or cancelled.”
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to these and other policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.