Visa changes aid foreign students

The changes will allow foreign students to retain a visa quicker.

Lacey Crisp

A change in visa laws could make it easier for science students to come to the United States to study.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security made changes in the Visa Mantis program in February, which will allow foreign students to retain a visa quicker and enable them to stay in the United States longer.

Although the changes will help international students, the effects won’t be immediate, said Craig Peterson, assistant director for the University’s International Student and Scholar Services.

“It will reduce the likelihood that students and scholars will be delayed from coming to the United States because of visa clearances,” Peterson said. “They’ve gotten faster about the visas, but there still is a problem.”

Peterson said there is a perception that students can’t get visas to come to the United States.

“People do have difficulties,” Peterson said. “But people do get here. I am not aware of a single case where a person has been denied a visa; it has just taken a long time.”

He said the changes will alleviate problems when students are applying for visas.

“It’s a partial solution,” Peterson said. “The security checks that were made through Mantis are still needed.”

University graduate student Ibrahim Elsayed said he agreed with the policy change.

Elsayed, a student in the department of physics and astronomy, said people are afraid to leave the United States because they don’t know if they will be allowed to return.

He was the last of his colleagues in Egypt to come to the United States. Many go to Germany or Japan because of visa issues, he said.

Josh Straka, a spokesman for Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said the visa changes are a positive step.

“There is more that needs to be done here,” Straka said. “This proves that the administration can get things done when it wants to.”

He said the changes will not fix all of the problems.

“There are still students who are seeking four-year degrees who are facing the same issues,” Straka said.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., was at the University last week discussing the decrease in international students here. He introduced his American Competitiveness Through International Openness Now Act, which aims to change the way student visas are processed.

Andrea Wuebker, Coleman’s press secretary, said the visa change is a “great step” in allowing more international students access to U.S. universities.

“We are very excited, and we think the new measures are fantastic,” Wuebker said. “The senator was pushing for similar measures in his ACTION bill.”

She said there is still more that needs to be done to solve the problem.

“We feel that ACTION is still important because (Visa) Mantis is just a small part of it,” Wuebker said. “The new measures will only help science students. You still have to prove that you don’t want to move here.”

Wuebker said the bill is set up to help all students maintain their visas for four years.

– Charlie Knutson contributed to this article.