Fury at US student visa charges...

December 12, 2003

The US government is expected to begin charging a $100 (£57.00) fee to applicants for student visas for conducting more comprehensive reviews that are making it time-consuming and difficult to come to the country for an education.

Visa delays have eased from their peak of up to four months last year, but there are still delays of up to two months. Before the September 11 2000 attacks, it was possible to get a US student visa in a day.

The new fee, expected to take effect next month, will pay for the Department of Homeland Security's new Student and Exchange Visitor Information Systems database, which was set up after the attacks to track student visitors.

"We always knew the fee was coming," Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, director of international study for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said.

"We didn't know when or how much it would be, or how they're anticipating applicants paying for it."

The US government is expecting applicants to pay by credit card or by cheque in dollars. Students would then be required to present the receipt in person to a consular official in their home country.

The American Association of Universities has objected, saying the payment provision alone will further slow the visa process and that paper receipts can be lost, stolen, or faked. It is urging that the fee be paid in consular offices at the same time as a student applies for a visa, and that local currency be accepted.

The fee would apply to new international students only, and not to visa renewals. Starting in the autumn, international students will also have to carry an identification card equipped with a chip containing the holder's photograph and fingerprints.

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