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July 7, 2002
5:45 AM   Subscribe

According to the US State Department's website, New Zealand citizen Mohammed Saffi was not in violation of his visa when intending to attend a Miami flight school for 727 aircraft engineering certification. At least that's what NZ Green Party foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke says.
posted by sycophant (9 comments total)

 
Wrong. Read State's website. You're allowed 18 hours a week of instruction when you have a valid tourist visa, and you are in the US primarily for the purpose of tourism, not education. Saffi wasn't. In addition, he misrepresented the training he was going to receive, and didn't disclose when he entered the country that his purpose was to get flight training at all.

Keith Locke is an idiot. You can tell him I said so.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:02 AM on July 7, 2002


He did not have a student visa, sycophant. He had a visitor visa which includes business or pleasure travel (aka tourist visa). It may be that he honestly thought it applied, but by failing to indicate that he was coming for flight school, he effectively lied to the consular officer, which itself is a deportable offense. According to wire stories this is something he accepts.

Yes, before 9/11, we probably would have let a mistake like this slide -- even for Saddam Hussein's stepson. Now, not so much. The INS is painfully aware that the slightest slip-up on their part could mean heads rolling, so they're dotting every I and crossing every T.
posted by dhartung at 10:04 AM on July 7, 2002


According the state department link I posted - he was allowed to undertake part-time study (less than 18 hours a week) on a tourist visa.

Also as I understand it, the US Embassy in New Zealand was consulted about his visa requirements and fully informed of his intent and they advised him he did not need a student visa.

From my cynical point of view the whole thing looks like a way of proving the system works... I mean hell, they caught Saddam's stepson, without the right visa, taking flying lessons in Miami!

The only thing I see that makes it a visa violation is that his primary purpose for being in the US may not have been travel, which is a requirement of the tourist-class visa he had.
posted by sycophant at 4:04 PM on July 7, 2002


The INS are a bunch of useless fools. I'd waited since late 2000 for my green card and they sent it to me with my name spelt wrong.

!!!!
posted by animoller at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2002


Slithy_Tove:

You're allowed 18 hours a week of instruction when you have a valid tourist visa, and you are in the US primarily for the purpose of tourism ...

dhartung:

He did not have a student visa, sycophant. He had a visitor visa which includes business or pleasure travel ...

Actually he probably didn't have a visa at all --- New Zealand and the US participate in a visa waiver program, meaning that you don't need a visa to visit for business or tourism and if you're going to be in the country for less than 90 days.

slithy_tove: If Saffi was within the state "18 hours / week" guidelines and also went to Disney World and Six Flags, you'd be fine with it?
posted by nathan_teske at 5:42 PM on July 7, 2002


It does appear he used the waiver; earlier reports had him getting a visa through the US consulate, but it appears he dealt directly with the flight school, who did clear his paperwork with the FBI -- but then he got into the country by showing his passport in LA. The Visa Waiver program flatly rules out working or studying, has a strict 90-day limit on stays, and cannot be changed to another status.

The idea behind the VWP is that low-risk, high-volume travelers can eliminate most paperwork. But the program is reciprocal, and may be revoked for a country -- as it was for Argentina this spring -- when refusal and other problem rates rise too high. Thus the NZ government has a vested interest in making sure that Saffi serves as an example to other travelers who may be thinking of skating the rules.

There is a legitimate question why the Justice Department's review of his flight-school application did not trigger questions within INS/State. As it happened, the FBI having been tipped off separately of his departure from Australia, they decided to follow him to see what he would do. That might have been the course followed even if there was a trigger -- or maybe there was and it just hasn't emerged. In any case, flight schools now have clarification that the VWP can't be used to attend them, which should have been obvious, and can pass this on to their customer-students.

And Locke insisting that NZ fight for Saffi's "rights" is silly. Nobody has a "right" to enter another country: it is a privilege.
posted by dhartung at 12:43 AM on July 8, 2002


I think Locke mean the rights of NZ people not to get arrested when they have done no wrong.
posted by dabitch at 3:30 AM on July 8, 2002


If Saffi was within the state "18 hours / week" guidelines and also went to Disney World and Six Flags, you'd be fine with it?

If he had attended a technical climbing course in the Rockies, sailing school at Annapolis, or a course on Shang bronzes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I'd be fine with it. I suspect that that kind of casual study during the course of a tourist trip is the kind of thing the "18-hour" exception is supposed to allow for.

But that's not what he intended. He was in this country solely for the purpose of going to flight school, and entered the country under false pretenses, saying that he was a tourist. Maybe his intentions were benign? But he sure acted in a suspicious and dishonest manner, and now he's screwed.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:54 AM on July 8, 2002


Oh sorry, I thought they were serious in the newsarticles where they mention he wanted a recertified- which i thought might be a refresher course of sorts [and under 18 hours].

a quick ganter at the infamous florida flying school shows no "re"-certificates though, and the curses that begin after july 4, are for 747's, 737's and 727's, all with 120 hours of groundschool alone.
posted by dabitch at 6:43 AM on July 8, 2002


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