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Homeland security orders new student visa checks

A student from Kazakhstan, allowed to return to the US in January without a valid student visa, is accused of hiding evidence in the Boston Marathon bombing case. On Thursday, Customs and Border Protection ordered new checks for student visas. 

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A foreign airline passenger is greeted by a Customs and Border Protection Officer at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2004. The Department of Homeland Security, criticized for failing to check the student status of a Kazakh man charged in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, has tightened procedures for admitting foreigners with student visas, a U.S. official said on Friday.

Tami Chappell/Reuters

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The U.S. Homeland Security Department ordered border agents to verify that every international student who arrives in the country has a valid student visa, according to an internal memorandum obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The new procedure is the government's first security change directly related to the Boston Marathon bombings last month.

The order, effective immediately, was issued by a senior official at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, David J. Murphy. It was circulated Thursday, a day after the Obama administration acknowledged that a student from Kazakhstan accused of hiding evidence for one of the Boston bombing suspects was allowed to return to the U.S. in January without a valid student visa.

The student visa for Azamat Tazhayakov had been terminated when he arrived in New York on Jan. 20. But the border agent in the airport did not have access to the information in the Homeland Security Department's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, called SEVIS.

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