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Fewer Visa Delays for Foreign Students and Scholars

February 23, 2005

The State Department has reduced the wait time for visa clearance of foreign students and scholars by 75 percent over the past year, although further program enhancements are necessary, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

An agreement with China to extend the visa stay period of foreign students to 12 months from the current six would further reduce delays. More than 50 percent of the applicants requiring clearance by the Visa Mantis program are from China.

The Visa Mantis program, which applies to foreign students and scholars studying science and technology, had experienced an average clearance time for visas of 67 days and is now at 15 days, according to the report. The delay reduction was due to several factors, such as adding additional State Department staff for visa processing, removing the need of the FBI to clear applications before the State Department can process applications, and upgraded database systems.

A full copy of the report is available on the GAO Web site.