APS News

APS Joins Other Organizations in Calling for Visa Reforms

A group of 40 academic, scientific and engineering organizations have joined together in a newly-released statement that, while recommending improvements to the visa application process for foreign students and scientists, also acknowledges the reforms that have already taken place. The APS and four other member societies of the American Institute of Physics–the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, and American Geophysical Union, and the Optical Society of America–all signed the May 18 statement.

"Despite significant recent improvements to the US visa system," the statement says, "considerable barriers remain that continue to fuel the misperception that our country does not welcome these international visitors, who contribute immensely to our nation’s economy, national security, and higher education and scientific enterprises." The statement, which is directed at the White House and the State Department, expresses "gratitude and support for the changes that have been made" and recommends "additional improvements, so that America can continue to compete for and welcome the world’s best minds and talents."

The federal government tightened restrictions on foreign students and scientists applying for visas in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. These tighter restrictions, coupled with insufficient staff and technology to handle the increased workload, led to severe delays and backlogs in visa applications, and, according to many reports, have fostered a perception that the US does not welcome international students and scholars.

The new statement recommends extending the validity of the type of security check entitled Visas Mantis; allowing students and scientists to at least begin a visa revalidation process before leaving the country; renegotiating visa reciprocity agreements; developing a national strategy to promote scientific exchange and study in the US; and emphasizing student applicants’ "academic intent and financial means to complete a course of study" rather than "their ability to demonstrate evidence of a residence and employment in their home country." Additionally, it opposes the requirement of export licenses for foreign students and scientists using equipment that is needed "to conduct unclassified, fundamental research."

The full text of the statement is available at http://www.aau.edu/homeland/05VisaStatement.pdf

Courtesy of FYI, the American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News (http://aip.org/fyi).

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