Border Security: Improvements Needed to Reduce Time Taken to Adjudicate Visas for Science Students and Scholars Page: 3 of 15
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
I am pleased to be here to discuss the report we are issuing today on the
need for improvements to the visa process to reduce the time it takes to
adjudicate visas for science students and scholars.' Citizens of other
countries seeking to enter the United States temporarily for study,
exchanges, business, tourism, and other reasons generally must apply for
and obtain a U.S. travel document, called a nonimmigrant visa, at U.S.
embassies or consulates abroad before arriving at U.S. ports of entry.
Since September 11, 2001, visa operations have played an increasingly
important role in ensuring our country's national security. In deciding who
should and should not receive a visa, consular officers must balance the
need to facilitate legitimate travel with the need to protect the United
States against persons whose entry could be harmful to U.S. national
interests. For example, consular officers need to delicately balance U.S.
national security interests with other interests such as promoting U.S.
education and cultural exchanges, business, tourism, and the overall
health of our economy. As part of the visa application process, many
applicants with a science background, including students and scholars,
must undergo an interagency security check, known as Visas Mantis,
before being issued or denied a visa. A Visas Mantis check is required by
the State Department (State), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
and other interested Washington agencies when there are potential
concerns that the visa applicant may engage in the illegal transfer of
sensitive technology, which could undermine U. S. national security.
At a hearing held by the House Committee on Science on March 26, 2003,
witnesses raised concern about the length of time it takes for science
students and scholars to obtain a visa and about losing top international
students to other countries due to visa delays. You asked us to review 1)
how long it takes a science student or scholar from another country to
obtain a visa and the factors contributing to the length of time, and 2) what
measures are under way to improve the process and decrease the number
of pending cases.
'U.S. General Accounting Office, Border Security: Improvements Needed to Reduce Time
Taken to Adjudicate Visas for Science Students and Scholars, GAO-04-371 (Washington,
D.C.: Feb. 25, 2004).
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United States. General Accounting Office. Border Security: Improvements Needed to Reduce Time Taken to Adjudicate Visas for Science Students and Scholars, text, February 25, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc291606/m1/3/: accessed December 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.