Issue Date: May 17, 2004
Without immediate action to improve its visa policy and processes, the U.S. risks irreparable damage to its higher education, scientific, economic, and national security enterprises. That’s the conclusion of more than 20 leaders in these areas who have signed a statement sent last week to the White House and Capitol Hill.
The statement, which contains six recommendations, reflects “broad concern and broad commitment to work together with government and solve a problem that’s been ongoing for more than a year,” says Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The statement is available at http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2004/0512visa.pdf.
Many surveys and other studies have documented a decline in the enrollment of foreign students in U.S. graduate departments of science and engineering (C&EN, April 5, page 67). Leshner adds that attendance by foreign scientists at U.S. science meetings also continues to drop.
Nils Hasselmo, president of the Association of American Universities, says the recommendations in the statement should be familiar to officials at the State Department and other agencies involved in visa issuance. “We’ve had quite a bit of interaction,” he says.
Hasselmo says he is optimistic that those agencies will respond positively to the recommendations, which he notes were generated precisely because “problems continue to occur with such regularity.”
“We greatly appreciate and welcome the recommendations provided in this statement,” says an Office of Science & Technology Policy official.
The groups that have signed the statement—including the American Chemical Society—note that they are not opposed to efforts to bolster national security in light of the government’s war on terror. “However,” they say in the statement, “we believe that some of the new procedures and policies, along with a lack of sufficient resources, have made the visa issuance process inefficient, lengthy, and opaque.”
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