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Call for visa reform to aid U.S. research

A coalition calls for a review of the visa process for foreign students and scientists, amid worries about the state of U.S. research activity.

The way the United States processes visas should be reformed to better welcome foreign students, scientists and scholars, a coalition of science, higher-education and engineering groups said on Wednesday. The groups, including the Association of American Universities, argue that there is a "visa-processing quagmire," which emerged from heightened security concerns in the wake of terrorist attacks. In 2000, 1,000 nonimmigrant visa applications were flagged for review under a U.S. screening system known as the Visas Mantis program, the coalition said. By 2002, that number had risen to 14,000, it said. Among other recommendations, the groups called for extending the validity of Visas Mantis security clearances for international students, scholars and scientists.

Worries have arisen about the state of U.S. research activity, which is seen as key to the country's technological leadership. A survey earlier this year found a decline in applications by international graduate students to leading U.S. research institutions for the 2004-05 academic year, according to the coalition.