U.S. officials have received intelligence indicating terrorists might attempt to slip into the United States using cultural, arts or sports visas, according to the FBI.
The bureau issued a bulletin to 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide warning about the potential misuse of P-visas, one of several types granted by the State Department for people visiting the United States for artistic, cultural or athletic purposes.
”Recent intelligence indicates that terrorist groups may be interested in exploiting cultural visa programs to infiltrate operatives and support network into the United States,” says the bulletin, described Thursday by a federal law enforcement official.
The bulletin, sent Wednesday, does not identify the source of the intelligence and contains no specific, corroborated evidence that any terrorists have entered the country this way.
Spies and defectors have in the past gained entry by tagging along with foreign sports teams or joining the entourages of famous performers. Some people granted these U.S. entry visas have even sold them to others.
”Often, there have been problems,” said Bill Strassberger, spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. ”Is the person coming here for the stated purpose of the visa, or are they just trying to circumvent the program and stay here?”