Fears that terrorists might use student visas to enter the United States have led to the introduction of legislation aimed at restricting visa availability.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recently announced plans to present legislation restricting student visas.
In a Sept. 27 press release, Feinstein outlined her proposal calling for a "six-month moratorium on foreign student visas, funding for the (Immigration and Naturalization Service's) foreign student electronic tracking system and new admission procedures."
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., introduced a similar bill last week focused on closing immigration loopholes in the student visa process.
In a press release Bond expressed support for an automated system of control over visa holders, improved visa screening and a visa waiver program.
Feinstein said the foreign student visa program is one of the most unregulated and exploited visa categories.
One of the persons responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was found to be staying in the country on an expired student visa.
But Feinstein said she places partial blame on universities that sponsor the foreign students.
"I believe that schools also have a responsibility within this system," her press release stated.
A highly debated aspect of Feinstein's proposal is the six-month moratorium it would place on student visas.
The moratorium prevents new visa applications and will give the INS time to mend problems within the student visa system.
UNC International Center Director Bob Locke said he thinks foreign students who want to return to their home countries during the winter holidays might be affected by the moratorium.
"The most worrisome point is the complete moratorium for six months that would affect any exchange student who planned to travel over the December and January holidays," he said. "They would have trouble getting visas to come back (to the United States)."
Locke said he does not oppose changes to the student visa program but added that exchange students are a small percentage of people coming into the country.
"Visiting visas are easier to get than student visas," he said. "Hopefully, changes will make it possible for people to come and study while the government monitors."
But neither Feinstein's proposal nor Bond's bill supplies any funding to universities to implement substantial changes.
Feinstein's proposal states that $32.3 million in appropriations would be given to the INS to implement the necessary infrastructure for detection of foreign students who have violated the terms of their visas.
Locke said the lack of funding for universities might be difficult to overcome but that the benefits of the proposal will outweigh any negatives.
"Regulations usually are unfunded," Locke said.
"But it is for the safety of all of us."
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