Wednesday, 6th March, 2002
Malaysian Smart Passport Not A Problem: US
By Sohan Das

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian smart passport holders will not have problems in entering the United States (US) provided their travel documents are in order.

According to a US Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) senior officer who asked not to be named, all major airports in the country were given special readers which are needed to read the details in the passport, by the Malaysian authorities.

"We have the readers at major airports, it's not a problem," he told reporters at a special briefing on visa, held by the US Embassy here.

He was asked whether a holder of Malaysian smart passport would face any problem to enter United States, as the passport need not be stamped when the holder exits Malaysia.

"It's the most sophisticated passport in the world and we even encouraged other countries to use similar approach as it is a highly secured-passport, with all details of the holder kept in a microchip," he said.

On the issue of two Malaysian in separate cases claimed they were mistreated by the US INS officers before being deported home, he said it was a case of clear violation of the US laws.

"Their intention to enter the country did not match what were stated in their visas. It's a clear violation," he said.

He said last year 75 Malaysians were deported home upon arrival for the same reason.

He said that travellers who came to the US were not singled out because of their religious faiths or nationalities.

"But my advice is, make sure that you come to the US with the same intention as what you told US embassy here when you apply for the visa," he said.

He also said it was normal for those found to be illegitimate travellers to be loosely handcuffed during their transfer to the detention centres while awaiting deportation on the next available flight.

"If the illegitimate travellers were also found with certified criminal records, they would be put on full restraint for safety measures," he said.

Last month, Azlinda Shaharuddin claimed she was detained and then deported from the US on Feb 11.

She was reported as saying that she was ankle-chained and handcuffed during her 26-hour detention and questioning.

Another Malaysian Mohd Ridzuan Ramli, a landscape surveyor, claimed he Angeles airport on Feb 20, stripped naked and questioned for 24 hours after US immigration officers suspected him of being a terrorist. They cancelled his visa and deported him home.

The officer said there were cases where people misunderstood that last date on the visa as the last day they could stay in the US.

"If your visa is valid for ten years, that doesn't mean that you can stay for ten years.

Validity date on a visa is actually the last day you can enter the country using the particular visa and it's up to the INS officers at the entry port to decide how long you can stay in the country," he said.

He also said the public could always refer to the US embassy to get the right information on visa application as well as filing complaint for any alleged mistreatment by INS officers when they arrived in the US.