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April 21, 2003
Volume 81, Number 16
CENEAR 81 16 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347


IMMIGRATION POLICY

VISA DELAYS SPARK CONCERNS

Science adviser claims screening is not aimed at exclusion

WILLIAM SCHULZ

The administration's science adviser addressed concerns about the timely ability of foreign students and scientists to obtain visas for visits to the U.S. for meetings, research collaborations, or educational reasons at a policy colloquium held earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

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BACKLOG Marburger addresses foreign scientists' visa delays. PHOTO BY PETER CUTTS
John H. Marburger III, director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, acknowledged delays but said, "Most of the current delays and backlogs are related to our efforts to screen applicants more rigorously, and not as the result of policies to exclude."

"While [visa] rejection rates for science- or study-related activities remain small, the number of cases submitted for additional review has increased dramatically since 9/11," Marburger said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual Science & Technology Policy Colloquium.

Visas for students and visiting scientists are subject to various review procedures, he said. For example, reviews occur when consular officials believe that a person intends to violate or evade U.S. laws or when the prospective visa holder is suspected of being a terrorist.

Last week, the American Chemical Society released a statement on the visa issue urging "swift federal action." The society says it is concerned that "the increasing number of delays and denials of visas to international students, scientists, and engineers will ultimately affect scientific progress and U.S. prosperity."

Among its recommendations, ACS said the review system should focus on applicants who pose the highest security risks and should facilitate reentry of scientists with proper credentials who leave for a short period.
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