Border Security: Improvements Needed to Reduce Time Taken to Adjudicate Visas for Science Students and Scholars, Statement of Jess T. Ford, Director International Affairs and Trade, Testimony before the Committee on Science, House of Represenatives   [open pdf - 232KB]

Each year thousands of international science students and scholars apply for visas to enter the United States to participate in education and exchange programs. They offer our country diversity and intellectual knowledge and are an economic resource. At the same time, the United States has important national security interests in screening these individuals when they apply for a visa. At a House Committee on Science hearing in March 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. GAO reviewed 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. GAO is making a recommendation to the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Director of the FBI and the Secretary of Homeland Security, to develop and implement a plan to improve the security check process known as Visas Mantis to avoid unnecessary delays in visa issuance. State commented it had taken some action to improve the Visas Mantis process and it would study our recommendation to make further improvements.

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