NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tightening the Student Visa System

November 2, 2001

The Bush administration plans to overhaul the process by which foreign students gain entry into the U.S. for study. But some education officials claim that part of what the White House wants to accomplish already exists.

One goal of the administration's policy is to "prohibit the education and training of foreign nationals who would use their training to harm the United States and its allies."

  • The State Department currently maintains a "technology alert list" that includes 16 sensitive fields of study.
  • The list includes nuclear technology, chemical and biotechnology engineering, information security, robotics, high-performance metals and alloys and aircraft and missile propulsion.
  • In reviewing visa applications, U.S. consular officials primarily look for proof that a student has a sincere interest in studying in the U.S., has the money to pay for it and has every intention of returning home after graduation.
  • Students -- particularly those from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism -- are supposed to come in for special scrutiny if they want to study in any of the specified fields.

Students applying for study visas undergo an interview in State Department consular offices abroad. But those familiar with the process say those interviews have shrunk over the years to less than two minutes.

The State Department says that in fiscal 2001, about 298,000 student and other educational exchange visas were approved worldwide -- while 114,000 were denied.

Source: Chris Adams, "White House Overhaul of Student Visas Is Viewed as Unnecessary by Colleges," Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2001.

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