During the first week of May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the agency’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) branch have shown a keen interest in bitcoin and blockchain technologies. On May 2 DHS awarded three blockchain-based startups $2.25 million for research and development. Following this announcement, the very next day Homeland Security’s USCIS department detailed they are considering bitcoin for U.S. Visa application and payment fees.
Homeland Security Injects $2.25 Million Into Distributed Ledger and Blockchain Surveillance Startups
Three startups working with blockchain related technologies have been given grants worth $2.25 million USD to further their projects. The projects receiving DHS funding include Blockcypher, the bitcoin blockchain surveillance company, Digital Bazaar, a verification project, and Evernym a blockchain-based key management firm. Dr. Robert Griffin, the acting DHS Secretary for Science and Technology, said the funding would improve the country’s security in the long run.
“The Small Business Innovation Research Projects (SBIR) program enables us to capture some of the best scientific thinking to find solutions to apply in the current threat landscape,” explains Dr. Griffin.
The U.S. agency has been bolstering blockchain projects for over a year now by funding a few projects within the landscape. Last year DHS awarded $200,000 USD to Factom for a blockchain-based identification system.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Considers Bitcoin for Visa Applications and Service Fees
Alongside the recent DHS funding during an EB-5 National Stakeholder Engagement on May 3rd, the Immigrant Investor Program Office (IPO) Division Chief Lori MacKenzie said the organization is considering bitcoin payments for services. Essentially this would open up the possibility for immigrants to pay Visa application fees with bitcoin.
“USCIS is currently considering issues involving virtual currency such as Bitcoin,” explains MacKenzie’s National Stakeholder Engagement report. “USCIS cannot provide blanket assurances regarding any particular form of transfer, but we will continue to evaluate evidence provided by petitioners to determine whether the relevant statutory and regulatory requirements have been met, including evidence that the funds invested belong to the petitioner, and were acquired, directly and indirectly, by lawful means.”
Some Cryptocurrency Proponents Believe U.S. Government Agencies Can Legitimize Bitcoin in a Completely New Way
The U.S. government, in general, has been quite focused on digital currency solutions and blockchain concepts over the past year and a half. The latest DHS announcement is a continuation of the SBIR funding program and both Block Cypher, and Digital Bazaar has already received previous awards from the U.S. agency.
While the statements from USCIS are quite positive towards the bitcoin protocol, some cryptocurrency proponents believe it could add some legitimacy to the digital currency. “It legitimizes bitcoin in a completely new way and means that regulators have to consider the US government as a legitimate user of bitcoin when proposing regulation,” explains a bitcoin enthusiast after hearing the USCIS news.
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