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Student visa policy revised after attacks

By Sarah Battest
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday Jan. 11, 2002

International students face difficulty in gaining visa renewal since Sept. 11

The cost of tuition and books are not the only concerns facing international students as they start the new semester at UA.

Under a new policy issued by the U.S. State Department in November, international students who study in the United States must renew their visas in their country of origin.

Before the change in policy, students traveled to either Canada or Mexico to renew their visas, rather than applying for one in their home country.

Acquiring a visa through this process was much quicker and less costly for international students.

For male students from Arab countries who are between the ages of 16 and 45, the State Department has also issued an additional 20-day, visa-processing period.

This processing period includes questions about the applicant's previous military service and weapons training, previous travels and whether the applicant has any other passports.

The change came after students returning to the United States from Mexico and Canada faced increased security measures stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks, which delayed their returns.

Joanne Lagasse-Long, interim director of international student programs and services, said students can still try applying for a visa to the United States from its two bordering countries, but she warned they may not be issued one.

She said the policy is unclear at this point and may still change.

Ayatollah Momayez, an Iranian civil engineering graduate student, said he was worried about traveling because of the new rules to obtain a visa, but he does not anticipate the restrictions lasting too long.

"I'm worried about being able to come back because I can't be sure, especially after the attacks," he said.

The State Department, not the University of Arizona, conducts background checks when admitting international students.

"There is a very true distinction between the government and the University of Arizona in terms of immigration and naturalization," said Kirk Simmons, executive director of International Affairs. "The UA is simply here to educate students."

While some students from countries with historically tense relations with the United States have faced tight immigration restrictions, now those strict guidelines apply to students from all countries.

"Personally, I would be grateful if this policy was lifted," said Siliang Li, president of the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars.

Other international conflicts have caused a cautious attitude when issuing visas to visiting students even before the Sept. 11 attacks, but Simmons said they have all been temporary.

"There has been an inordinate amount of attention given to international students since the Sept. 11 attacks," he said. "International students did not cause Sept. 11."

"The 99.9 percent of students who come to the U.S. are purely here to study and have no other hidden agenda," Simmons said.


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