State Dept. Introduces New Visa System; Jews to Be Indentified

The Visa Division of the State Department, which had refrained from listing Jews as such on visa applications, is adopting a new system by which all Jews must be so identified. This was confirmed today by State Department sources.

Visa officials explained that the new listing is required because of “ethnic” data demanded by the McCarran-Walter Omnibus Immigration Act. The act goes into effect on December 24.

Anticipating the application of the new act, visa chief Herve J. L’Heureux has issued preliminary orders to consular officers to elicit information on whether or not applicants are Jewish. The Visa Division has cited section 222-A of the McCarran-Walter Act as its authority. This section requires that each alien “shall state his race and ethnic classification.”

The legal terminology is construed by the Visa Division as requiring the listing of Jews as an ethnic classification. However, private immigration attorneys have commented that nothing in the act or in congressional history indicates that congress has made a determination that Jews are an ethnic group, which should be listed as such. So far as could be learned, there will be no attempt to specify religious faiths such as Catholic, Protestant, and others on visa applications and the reason for listing Jews was attributed to the “ethnic” requirements.

A Visa Division source said Jews would be identified as a “special group” but that he did not yet have access to the “new details which are being worked out.” It was impossible to find answers from the Visa Division to such questions as whether Jews who embraced other faiths would nevertheless be listed in the Jewish ethnic classification. New forms and instructions are being worked out in detail, it was explained, and interpretive information is not yet available.

Despite the fact that the new law is not yet in effect, Jewish visa applicants have already been asked if they were Jewish as a point of information. The Washington office of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League has discussed the matter in correspondence exchanged with appropriate authorities in the government.

Copies of new immigration forms were requested by the Washington J.T.A. Bureau but the Visa Division said that no forms, old or new, were available here. It was explained that “each of our consulates abroad prints its own forms.”

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