U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs



The biometric border crossing card (BCC) project is a joint effort of the Department of State and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (BCIS) to comply with the Section 104 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). The law requires that every Border Crossing Card (BCC) issued after April 1, 1998, contain a biometric identifier such as fingerprint, and be machine-readable.

The law also mandated that all pre- April 1, 1998 BCC's expire on October 1, 1999. In recognition of the magnitude of replacing over five million existing cards, Congress extended the deadline to September 30, 2001.

The new BCC is a laminated, credit card-style document with many security features and ten -year validity. Called a "laser visa," the card is both a BCC and a B1/B2 visitor's visa. All Mexican visitors to the U.S., whether traveling to the border region or beyond, receive a laser visa.

The Consular Affairs Bureau undertook a number of initiatives to better manage the large number of replacement card applications. We opened a new consulate in Nogales and expanded the consulate in Nuevo Laredo. We also established USG contractor-Operated Temporary Processing Facilities (TPFs) along the border, Most co-located with existing consular offices, and a card facility in Tijuana that quickly sorts and returns the BCIS-produced cards to the twelve posts in Mexico processing BCC's.

From April 1, 1998 through August 21, 2001, American Embassy and Consulates adjudicated over 4.8 million applications, approving slightly more than 4.0 million. Somewhat less than half are for replacement cards; the rest are for first time applicants.

· Border Biometrics Program is responsible for coordinating policy and providing operational guidance for the new biometric border crossing card project.

Criteria for Issuance of Laser Visa
· Laser visa applicants must meet the same eligibility standards as those for the B-1/B-2 visa and for the BCC formerly issued by BCIS.
· Applicants must demonstrate that they have ties to Mexico that would compel them to return after a temporary stay in the United States. U.S. consular officers look for evidence of strong family, business, or social ties.

Documents Required for a Laser Visa
· Applicants replacing an old-style BCC do not need a passport in order to get a laser visa.
· They need to present the old card and a recent photo identity card.
· A passport issued within the past 12 years is acceptable, even if it is now expired.
· In lieu of a passport, a voter registration card is the preferred identity document.
· First time applicants and those renewing other types of visas need to present a valid Mexican passport as the primary document of citizenship and identity. (GOM requires citizens flying out of the country to have a valid passport.)
· We were willing to accept the Mexican Certificate of Nationality, issued by SRE (the Mexican Foreign Ministry), but the Ministry decided that the Certificate was not intended for general issuance.

Cost of the Laser Visa
· Visa application fee is $100.00.
· Mexican children under 15 years of age, fee of $13.00. The child must have at least one parent who holds a laser visa or who is applying for a BCC. Laser visas issued for the reduced fee expire on the child's 15th birthday. If the full fee is paid, the child receives a BCC valid for the full ten years.

Validity of the Laser Visa
· U.S. visas worldwide are valid for a maximum of ten years. Except in the case of children, who pay a reduced fee, laser visas are valid for ten years.

BCC Procedures After September 30, 2001 Deadline
· All BCCs issued before April 1, 1998, will expire on September 30, 2001. Congress did not pass legislation to extend the expiration date, therefore these older cards are no longer valid for entry into the United States.

Effective October 1, 2001
· Holders of combination B1/B2/BCC visas will be permitted to enter with a valid passport, complete I-94 form and $6.00 I-94 fee. (The BCC portion will no longer be valid after September 30, 2001.)
· All other holders of old BCCs will be not permitted entry.

Further Inquiries
Further information about the specific case status, please contact the American consular office in Mexico or the local BCIS.

November 2002

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