DHS anticipates applications for 136 ‘snitch visas’ each year

Fri, 2013-01-25 03:07 PM
By: Jacob Goodwin gsnmagazine.com
DHS estimates that it will receive 136 applications per year from law enforcement officials who want to offer an “S Visa” to enter the United States -- often called a “snitch visa” -- to either an “alien witness” or an “informant” who promises to assist in an investigation by law enforcement authorities against a criminal organization or a terrorist group, but who otherwise would be ineligible to enter the United States.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unit of DHS published an announcement in the Federal Register on Jan. 25 in which it said it is seeking comments from the public until March 26 about the application form it currently uses to gather information from requesting law enforcement officials and from the visa applicants themselves.

That unusual application form gathers information about the supposed benefits to the United States that might be gained by offering legal residence to the “snitch,” as well as the reasons why such a person might ordinarily be barred from entering the country.

For example, the law enforcement applicant is asked to check a box if the alien will be placed in danger in the U.S. or abroad as a result of providing information. Or the applicant can check a different box: “If the alien poses a danger, the danger posed by the alien is outweighed by the assistance the alien will furnish.”

The application, known officially as Form I-854, also provides a checklist of more than 30 reasons why the alien might ordinarily be considered “inadmissible,” but for which the U.S. law enforcement official can seek a waiver. Among the more colorful transgressions that might make an alien inadmissible are: terrorist activities, crime involving moral turpitude, coming to overthrow the U.S. Government, alien smuggler, Communist Party member, or “ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in the commission of the acts of torture or extra judicial killing.” Clearly, Form I-854 envisions the admission to the United States of some rather unsavory characters.

There are actually two types of “S Visas” -- the S-5 visa which is available to aliens who possess critical and reliable information about a criminal organization or enterprise (200 of these are available per year), and the S-6 visa which is available to aliens who can supply information about a terrorist organization (only 50 of these are available annually.)

“Applications may be submitted for a person outside the United States or a person already in the country but facing deportation,” explains a fact sheet published by the Ansari law firm, PLLC, of Austin, TX, which specializes in immigration and nationality law.

Until 1994, there was no separate classification for S visas for such aliens, explains Gregory Siskind, a partner in the law firm of Siskind, Susser, Haas and Devine. In that year, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act created the S category of visas.

USCIS estimates that 136 responses will be filed on Form I-854 each year, which is significantly fewer than the maximum allowable number of S visas per year, which currently stands at 250.

Further information is available from Laura Dawkins, chief of the regulatory coordination division of USCIS.