INS Policy Change Unlikely to Reduce Foreign-Student Enrollment in UC

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Despite a new Immigration and Naturalization Service law that bars international students from studying in the United States before their visa applications are approved, UC does not believe the number of foreign students enrolled in the system will change significantly.

Before the policy was amended yesterday, international students were permitted to attend U.S. universities pending visa processing. The new rule will go into affect this summer.

"We don't expect this rule to have any significant impact on international student enrollment," said Chris Harrington, a UC spokesperson. "Students will be happy to hear the INS is processing their applications faster."

Under the altered policy, the INS will approve student visa applications during a 30-day period rather than the previous six-months-to-one-year time frame. The revision will become official after it is printed in an upcoming edition of "The Federal Register," a government newsletter.

The change in policy is an example of the government's efforts to increase security after the Sept. 11 attacks. Two hijackers involved in the terrorist attacks came to the United States as tourists and enrolled in a Florida flight school before their visas had been approved.

The hijacker's visas were not approved until March 11, six months after the attacks. The security breach prompted Washington officials to call for stricter control and monitoring of student visas.

"While we recognize that the overwhelming majority of people who come to the United States as visitors are honest and law abiding, the events of September 11 remind us that there will always be those who seek to cause us harm," stated INS Commissioner James Ziglar.

Several other proposals were made by universities and federal agencies after the attacks to enable closer monitoring of international students.

UC officials recently met with the INS to discuss installing a campus system for tracking foreign students, permitting the administration to notify the INS about suspicious student activity through an automated Internet program.

In addition, an anti-terrorist bill prohibiting the granting of visas to students from countries whose governments support terrorists recently passed through the House of Representatives. The proposition is pending Senate approval.

The bill would mandate that students from countries listed as housing terrorists pass thorough background checks and then be granted a waiver by the U.S. Secretary of State before being allowed into the United States to study. The

addendum to INS policy did not require Congressional approval.

Although the policy was put in place to protect U.S. citizens, some students disagree with the INS' "crackdown" on foreigners who want to study in the United States.

"With all the things going on now after September 11, I can see the concern in trying to make the country safe," said Jeanna Wong, a junior at UC Berkeley. "But most of the time the 2 percent of students coming in are not trying to bomb anything."

Several students also expressed concern that the reduction in approval time would exacerbate the safety issue rather than making it more secure.

"How can something that took six months to research now only take 30 days?" Wong said. "The quality of the research (on international students) would be compromised."


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