Students face visa delays

October 12, 2001

While first-year students bound for British universities from Pakistan face visa delays, the threat of a six-month moratorium on international students entering the United States has been lifted.

Visa applications by students who have previously studied in the United Kingdom are being processed within 24 hours by a skeleton staff at High Commission offices in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

However, the Foreign Office said: "Very real security concerns do mean that some applicants, including first-time students, may have difficulty in submitting their applications. We advise such applicants to telephone the visa section for advice."

In the US, senator Dianne Feinstein backed away from legislation to suspend visas while security protocols for international students were tightened. The measures were proposed because one of the terrorist suspects had entered the US on a student visa.

She still intends to implement the student and exchange visitor information system, an electronic tracking system for the Immigration and Naturalisation Service, which would serve as a database of foreign students. The database has been allocated $32.3 million (£22 million).

Higher education officials agreed that implementing the system was the best way to monitor international students on campus.

David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, wrote to Senator Feinstein saying that as most of the terrorist suspects were thought to have had other visas, "it seems vindictive to look at only students. We are in competition with Western Europe and Australia for the best foreign students, cutting off movement for six months would put US universities at a disadvantage".

The American Universities Admission Program warned that student visas would be harder to come by since the terrorist attacks, and could take months to process rather than days.

The US attracted 514,723 international students in 1999-2000, less than 2 per cent of annual visitors to the country.

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