The temporary visa that a Portland foreign-exchange organization issued in 2008 to a Chechen man who later became a suspect in a triple murder in Massachusetts and had ties to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects is a commonly used cultural exchange visa used by thousands of foreign nationals each year to work or study in the U.S. for a few months.

But the Portland-based Council on International Education Exchange and several federal agencies contacted Tuesday provided no details about how Ibragim Todashev was selected for the J-1 work and travel program or the security vetting he received before coming to this country. CIEE requested that questions be submitted by email, but would not answer questions about his case, including what job he had applied for and how he failed to comply with the requirements of his visa, which prompted CIEE to withdraw its sponsorship of him.

“I’m sorry that at this time we are unable to contribute to your story,” said Tracy Teare, communications manager for CIEE, in an email Tuesday.

The State Department’s consular affairs division, which approves all visas, did not respond to questions Tuesday.

The issue of Todashev’s arrival in the U.S. was first raised by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who questioned Attorney General Eric Holder in a congressional hearing two weeks ago about Todashev’s being granted asylum in the U.S. four months after he fell out of compliance with his J-1 visa.

Shortly after the bombings at the Boston Marathon last April, Todashev was being questioned in Orlando, Fla., by Massachusetts state troopers and the FBI about his friendship with suspected marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and about a 2011 triple homicide in Waltham, Mass., when a confrontation erupted between him and an FBI agent, and he was shot to death.

Collins said CIEE told her in May about Todashev’s invalid visa.

Asked whether Todashev was supposed to be living and working in Maine after he received his J-1 visa, Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Sen. Susan Collins, responded by email, saying he did not know what Todashev’s arrangements were.

Todashev applied for a J-1 visa to come to the United States in 2008. The State Department said the J-1 visa program has, since it began in the 1960s, been used to enroll up to 170,000 foreign nationals at any given time, though that number has fallen to about 77,000.

CIEE would not respond to questions about how many J-1 visa applications it handles, nor how many have been revoked. Collins’ spokesman said he didn’t know the answer to those questions.

The nonprofit CIEE, located on Fore Street in Portland, is a major player in the educational and cultural exchange business. It is designated by the State Department as one of 78 sponsors for J-1 visa applicants in the country. While CIEE is based in Portland, it places foreign citizens in temporary jobs all over the country. It also is active in providing education and work abroad experiences for young people in the U.S. who wish to travel overseas.

According to CIEE’s website, every year it helps “nearly 50,000 high school and university students as well as young professionals and educators.”

Websites in several countries throughout Europe, Australia and the Middle East that sign up young people interested in working temporarily and traveling in the U.S. mention CIEE as a sponsoring organization in the U.S.

As a nonprofit, it must file a Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. Its 2011 filing says the organization had gross revenues of almost $95 million, with 320 employees and a payroll of $14.8 million.

The month after Todashev’s arrival in June 2008, according to Collins, CIEE determined he violated the terms of his temporary work visa and told him he had to leave the country. Instead, he remained in the U.S. and was granted asylum in November 2008.

Collins questioned Holder in a Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on whether the person who granted asylum to Todashev ever checked into whether he had violated the terms of his visa or whether there were any other red flags in his case. Holder did not answer, other than to say the department’s immigration judges were unable to keep up with the increased workload.

Collins said she is still waiting for answers from the Justice Department. She said it appears Todashev had no intention of abiding by his visa requirements.

Kelley did not answer questions about the details of what CIEE told Collins about Todashev’s continued presence in the U.S.

Representatives of several federal departments said commenting on asylum cases is prohibited, even after an applicant has died, because of potential ramifications for the asylum seeker’s family members and others.

Collins has sought to beef up the division that handles asylum cases while at the same time requiring more thorough scrutiny of asylum applications.

One challenge the Todashev case highlights is the diffuse responsibility for such cases.

The State Department’s consular bureau within U.S. embassies abroad is charged with reviewing visa applications and determining whether applicants meet the requirements, including whether they pose a security threat.

If a person violates the terms of a visa, the case is referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to institute proceedings to remove that person from the country.

An application for asylum is made to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, and gets reviewed by an immigration judge with the Department of Justice.

In the case of temporary work and travel visas, a sponsor – such as CIEE – of a visa applicant serves as an intermediary between an employer and the person seeking the visa, making sure the applicant has the job skills and English language proficiency sought by the employer.

The State Department website says designated sponsors “are responsible for all aspects of the exchange program, including screening and selecting of foreign national participants and monitoring the participants throughout their exchange visitor program in the United States.”

According to Collins, CIEE told her office last May about Todashev’s visa status and that it had handled his original J-1 visa application. The organization also informed Collins that it had notified the State Department immediately when Todashev failed to meet the requirements of his visa in 2008, including that he work for four months before being allowed a month to travel.

Kelley said Collins believes CIEE did its part.

“It reported Todashev to the federal government, and it informed Todashev that he had to prepare to leave the country immediately because he had violated the conditions of his visa,” Kelley said, adding that Collins had asked Holder about Todashev’s case because she believes the asylum process – not the J-1 visa process – is flawed.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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Twitter: @Mainehenchman