Paul and Blumenthal Bill would Create Temporary Visas for Families to Reunite
by Emily Brooks, Political Reporter | May 13, 2021
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal, introduced a bill on Thursday that aims to make a new category of temporary visas to allow family members to visit the United States for major life events such as weddings, funerals, and births more easily.
The Temporary Family Visitation Act would create a new 90-day B-3 visa category for family members of American permanent residents and citizens. Under the current system, many family members must apply for a B-2 tourist visa to attend major life events in the country or visit their family. But the current system’s measures to prevent visa overstays include assessing those with personal ties in the U.S., having the effect of high denial rates to family members and keeping families apart.
“We’ve heard constant complaints from our members that they have such a difficult time trying to get visitor’s visas for family members to come and visit them for special occasions,” said Morad Ghorban, director of government affairs and policy at the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, which was instrumental in crafting the bill. “If you have family in the United States, it weighs against you because there is a sort of intent-to-emigrate clause within the B-2 tourist visa, and that’s why you see a lot of denial rates for B-2 visas that are connected to people that have family in the United States.”
“The Temporary Family Visitation Act is a great step forward in allowing family members of U.S. citizens/permanent residents to responsibly visit the United States for memorable occasions such as weddings, births and graduations,” Paul said. “The legislation will strengthen our economy through indirect spending and has the support of a large coalition of groups who agree that it is time to allow family members to visit the United States under responsible enforcement mechanisms to ensure that applicants do not overstay their visa.”
Under the bill, a U.S.-based family member must get an affidavit of financial support for their family member for them to receive a B-3 visa. And as a self-enforcement mechanism, applicants may not create new petitions for admission of more relatives if a previous relative overstayed a visa.
“The birth of a child, and the marriage of two people, I think, are seminal moments in the lives of people. And right now, those are not qualifying criteria for a visa,” said Daniel Garza of the Libre Initiative.
Proponents of the bill argue that it would benefit the U.S. economy.
“The expanded travel opportunities that the bill enables would benefit thousands of American businesses as more international travelers visit family in the U.S.,” Garza said. “International travel indirectly supports 1.2 million U.S. jobs and over $30 billion in wages.”
Additional measures in the program to prevent visa overstays include requiring applicants to get travel medical insurance and preventing visa recipients from changing their visa status while in the U.S.
A deeply divided Congress creates a tough road ahead for the bill, but early bipartisan support makes advocates of the legislation optimistic.
“This is a small change,” Ghorban said, “but a very practical solution. And that is why we’re getting bipartisan support, not only from members of Congress but different community groups, from progressive organizations to conservative organizations.”
The bill also has support from the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Muslims for America, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Pars Equality Center, among other groups.