Post-9/11 student visas difficult to obtain

Regulations after Sept. 11 have made student visas more difficult to obtain for international students who wish to study in the United States.

New Congressional measures came packaged in two pieces of legislation introduced shortly after Sept. 11, 2001: the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

Among the new restrictive procedures are more extensive record checks for criminal and terrorist activity, FBI involvement, closer monitoring, fingerprinting, more interviews and an additional $95 fee for each student to finance an informational database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).

The Enhanced Border Security Act also included a measure to deny student visas to citizens of any country that is considered a state sponsor of terrorism “unless it is determined the alien does not pose a threat to the United States,” according to the act.

In addition, students are watched more carefully when they are studying in hard sciences, nuclear engineering and computer science where they could potentially provide information to build weapons. The list of majors under this blacklist stands at 152.

The focus on hard science majors poses a particular problem to research-oriented institutions like the U.

In cases where students’ academic programs are questionable, their documents sometimes must be cleared by the State Department, which includes an average wait of 63 days, according to Bill Barnhart, director of the U’s International Center.

Penalties for falling out of status or failing to update officials regarding one’s whereabouts are also harsher. In some cases, students must leave the country or pay a $175 reinstatement fee.

Barnhart said the requirements inherently make obtaining student visas more of a challenge for everybody.

If students are not ultimately turned away, they often at least face long wait, he said.

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