US Relaxes Visa Regime for Foreign Scholars

Politics | February 13, 2005, Sunday // 00:00

The US government has surprisingly eased a tough visa requirement for foreign science and engineering students that had been said to be the biggest stumbling block to drawing the world's most promising scholars to the US.

Students and researchers working in "sensitive" scientific and technical areas had been required to obtain a special visa, known as a Visa Mantis, each year, used to screen against the illegal transfer of technology since 1998.

The State and the Homeland Security Departments said they have extended the validity of Visas Mantis clearances for the F (student), J (exchange visitors), H (temporary workers), L (intracompany transferees) and B (tourist and business) categories of visas.

International students (F visas) who have received a Visas Mantis clearance and been issued a visa will benefit from having that clearance be valid for up to the length of the approved academic program, to a maximum of four years, according to the statement issued by the State Department.

Temporary workers (H visas), exchange visitors (J visas) and intracompany transferees (L visas) can receive a Visas Mantis clearance valid for the duration of their approved activity to a maximum of two years, while business visitors (B-1 visas) and visitors for pleasure (B-2 visas) can receive a Visas Mantis clearance valid for one year, provided that the original purpose for travel, as stated in the visa application, has not changed on subsequent trips, the statement said.

On Friday Nils Hasselmo, president of the Association of American Universities and a leading critic of the visa controls, said the new policy "sends the right kind of message" to students considering US research universities.

"It's a commonsense reform that removes an unnecessary burden that caused enormous inconvenience for thousands of international students and discouraged many more from coming here to study," he said, as cited by the Financial Times.

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