07 September 2006

America's open welcome for students

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The United States is ready to welcome more foreign students to the country, and is making visa processing easier and quicker than ever before.

Every year more than 500,000 overseas students take part in some form of study at a US university or higher education establishment, providing much needed income.

Tony Edson, deputy assistant secretary of state for visa services, made it clear during a webchat to an international audience that the student visa application had been streamlined to actively encourage more students to apply for places at institutes of learning in America.

“There is a widespread perception in some countries that it has become more difficult to qualify for a student visa to the United States,” Edson said.

“In fact, although we have made significant changes to the application process by incorporating additional security checks, fingerprinting and greatly expanded interview requirements, the basic requirements for a student visa have not changed.”

“We recognize that the very best advertisement for America is America and look forward to each and every international student who arrives at our shores. We have added some additional security measures to the visa process since 9/11, but even as we strive to make our country safer, we have never stopped trying to make those security measures as efficient and effective as possible.”

Edson added that students are now given priority in scheduling visa interviews.

Edson's comments come amid concerns that the USA is losing its advantage at drawing foreign students to the country. Enrollment has dropped by more than 3% since 2002 with rising tuition fees, the post 9-11 political climate and competition from other developed countries all factors for the decline.

Student visa applicants are required to go to the U.S. embassy or consulate to be fingerprinted and interviewed as part of the security measures, but if they are genuine students and are able to fund the education they plan in the United States, they are likely to qualify for visas.

Under U.S. law, student visa applicants must prove that they intend to return to their home country after a temporary stay in the United States.


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