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NFTC Calls for Reform of Post 9-11 Visa Review Process
Date: 6/4/2003

Cites Unnecessary Delays, Confusion that Harm U.S. Business and Interests

Washington, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council today called on Congress and the State Department to review current visa application procedures that were instituted in the wake of the September 11 tragedy. NFTC contends that significant and unnecessary delays are adversely affecting business travel and should be reformed – both to provide for enhanced security and to further U.S. foreign policy goals and commercial interests

"What the U.S. business community initially thought was a temporary bottleneck in establishing the new procedures has turned into a serious and apparently long term problem," said Reinsch in testimony submitted to the House Committee on Small Business. "Since last summer, both the certainty of timing and the transparency of the process have disappeared, and, as a result, businesses inviting foreign guests to the U.S. or seeking to bring their own employees to the U.S. can no longer predict with any confidence when, or if, they will be able to do so. The lack of confidence in the timeliness of a response has hurt a growing number of industries."

Reinsch noted that visa applications currently are being delayed or denied in such circumstances as: buyers applying to visit the U.S. to take possession of items they have purchased (often having already received an export license from the U.S. government for the item), foreign employees of U.S. companies applying to visit temporarily for training or work on special projects, and potential customers for U.S. goods or services wanting to examine the products and negotiate a purchase.

"The new process ignores commercial considerations, strains our foreign relations by telling business visitors they are unwelcome, and does little to achieve the increased security objectives for which it was intended," said Reinsch.

Until July 2002, the State Department processed visa applications involving a visitor's access to technology pursuant to a relatively transparent, time-limited process. As a part of the war on terrorism, however, last summer the State Department implemented changes to its application review programs that increased the number referred to Washington to be reviewed by an interagency process that includes the FBI and CIA. The lengthy delays caused by these changes affect not only industry, but also the scientific community, as well as travel by foreign scholars, speakers and musicians. To remedy this, the NFTC would like to see a return to a time-limited review process that provides certainty and transparency to business.

"A return by agency officials to a balanced perspective on visa application reviews that takes into account the damage delays and denials do to international standing and commercial objectives is essential to establishing a fair and efficient application process," Reinsch concluded.

To view the transcript of the testimony, click on hyperlink or paste the URL in your web browser http://www.nftc.org/default/tvisas.603.doc

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The National Foreign Trade Council is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves 350 member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.