Visas

Explaining that “the events of September 11, 2001 redefined our approach to visa work,” Janice L. Jacobs, President Bush’s nominee to lead the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “We have worked hard to increase visa security measures, completely changing the business model for processing visas and vastly improving our communication with other agencies.”

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The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved legislation that would extend for five years, to June 1, 2013, the waiver of the requirement that international medical graduate students return to their home country for at least two years before applying for work permits in the U.S. The legislation, H.R. 5571, was introduced by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). It was approved in Committee by voice vote. Companion legislation has not been introduced in the Senate.

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The House of Representatives today approved legislation to speed up the processing of visas for foreign artists invited to perform in the United States. The Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, H.R. 1312, would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a 30-day window to process visa applications for performers and the people accompanying them. If the performer has been invited by a nonprofit group, and the Department misses the 30-day deadline, the visa application would qualify for 15-day “premium processing” at no charge.

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The Alliance completed visits this winter to consular posts in South America to discuss visa processing. We visited the following posts: Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, and Quito.

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The Alliance’s eighth annual Advocacy Day was held last Thursday, February 21, 2008. The event was sponsored in conjunction with the Association for International Education Administrators (AIEA), an Alliance member that has partnered with us on this event for four (non-consecutive) years. The event was held in conjunction with AIEA’s Washington conference.

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Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) last week introduced the American Competitiveness Through International Openness Now (ACTION) Act of 2008. The legislation, S. 2653, would make changes in the visa system to “encourage American openness to international students, scholars, and businesspersons”, Coleman noted in his statement of introduction on the floor of the Senate.

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Noting that visas for foreign students and scholars will be a “predominant theme” for the House Subcommittee on Research and Science this year, Chairman Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) stated, “All of us are committed to increasing the pipeline” of foreign students in the U.S. who “broaden and enrich” our campuses and bring different perspectives.

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At a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Mr. James K. Glassman and Ms. Goli Ameri, President Bush’s nominees for Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) respectively, praised the value of exchanges and pending their confirmation, pledged to build on those programs during their terms in office.

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The Alliance completed visits early this year to consular posts in Asia to discuss visa processing. We visited the following posts: Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, New Delhi, and Mumbai.

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The Alliance this fall completed visits to consular posts in Eastern Europe to discuss visa processing. We visited the following posts: Sofia, Bucharest, Kiev, and Warsaw.

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