Quicker Visas for IR Students
April 6, 2005 4:25 PM
The U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security have made the Visa Mantis process easier for foreign students by reducing the wait time on security clearances.
Visa Mantis is a program that gives special security clearances to foreign workers entering the United States to work in scientific and technological fields, in order to prevent the illegal transfer of technology outside the country.
Under the new Visa Mantis process, foreign students can get their clearance renewed in 14 days or less, thanks to changes in the process and an increase in the security staff that performs background checks.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the number of checks increased, making the process more time-consuming. The auditors for the Government Accountability Office reported last year that Visa Mantis checks were taking an average of 67 days.
International student Hung Piano said that after the Sept. 11 attacks, tightened security made getting a visa a lot more difficult than before.
“I do think the country became less inviting to foreign students,” said Piano. “The laws were more strict, but now it is better because they are changing things.”
Jay Ward, coordinator of International Student Services, said that to his knowledge, no SF State international students have reported problems acquiring the necessary clearance to study in scientifically sensitive areas.
“Luckily, we have not had any bad experiences with students trying to get clearance,” said Ward. “The reason being that there are very few students that fall in that category, since we don’t offer a Ph.D. in the areas which Visa Mantis would apply to.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security website, the Visa Mantis system was established in 1998 to prevent those who may attempt to illegally export sensitive technology from the United States. All non-immigrants planning to work or study in sensitive scientific fields such as engineering, chemistry, and pharmacology must undergo this security check.
Sang Won Yoou, a 27-year-old senior international student from Korea, said he understands the difficulties of rigorous visa requirements.
“It’s a pain worrying about fulfilling all the visa requirements,” said Yoou. “Sometimes if we don’t ask, we don’t know. I’m glad the U.S. is making it easier for us.”
Although Yoou did not have trouble with his visa applications, he said he knows students from Korea who would like to come to study in the United States, but say the process is lengthy.
Previously, students with F-1 visas would have to go through a renewal process each year they wanted to stay in the country. An F-1 visa is a required entry visa for international students, and students with
F-1 visas studying in sensitive scientific fields of study must undergo a Visa Mantis check.
Therefore, students had to reapply for a new visa while pursuing their academic study.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, students who have received Visa Mantis clearance and have a valid visa will have clearance up to the duration of their academic program or a maximum of four years. If the student decides to change their academic major, they will lose their security clearance.
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