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International Education and Business Groups Applaud Introduction of Legislation to Improve U.S. Competitiveness for International Talent
Date: 2/15/2008
Written By: Jennifer Cummings,The Fratelli Group for NFTC/USA*Engage, 202-822-9491

ACTION Act addresses REAL ID, trusted traveler, visa-processing, and other key issues

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2008 – NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the National Foreign Trade Council, and USA*Engage applaud yesterday’s introduction by Senators Norm Coleman (R – Minn.) and Jeff Bingaman (D – N.M.) of the American Competitiveness Through International Openness Now (ACTION) Act of 2008. This key piece of legislation addresses many of the specific barriers to international educational and scientific exchange, and international business travel, that have raised widespread concern among lawmakers, business leaders, foreign-policy experts, and the higher-education community about the United States’ competitiveness as a destination for the world’s talent.

“The ACTION Act recognizes that our national security and competitiveness depend to a large degree on the United States’ ability to maintain and enhance its openness to international students, scholars, exchange visitors, scientists, and business travelers,” said NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of Senator Coleman and Senator Bingaman on these significant issues, and we urge Congress to support this important legislation.”

“We welcome the introduction of this important piece of legislation, which is essential to U.S. economic competitiveness,” said NFTC President Bill Reinsch. “The United States must ensure that America’s doors are secure, but remain open to international business travelers and the best and brightest minds, if we are to remain the world’s leader in innovation and the center of global commerce.”

“Our visa policy is in need of reform, and the ACTION Act is a step in the right direction,” said USA*Engage Director Jake Colvin. “The United States’ diplomatic efforts abroad are best served by delivering a message to the rest of world that America is open to international visitors.”
In order to better coordinate the efforts of various government entities to attract international talent to the United States, the centerpiece of the ACTION Act is the establishment of an International Education Coordination Council in the White House. The legislation also calls on the President of the United States to submit to Congress a strategic plan for increasing U.S. competitiveness in this area. 

Some of the other key elements of the ACTION Act include:

  • Amending the REAL ID Act to facilitate drivers’ license issuance and renewal for international students and exchange visitors;
  • Facilitating business travel through a “trusted traveler” program, enhancing consular resources, and allowing holders of employment-based visas to renew them in the United States, as recommended in the final report by the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council.
  • Eliminating the requirement that applicants for student visas prove that they do not intend to immigrate to the United States;
  • Facilitating the transition for international students from student-visa status to H-1B (an employment-based visa) status;
  • Expanding the duration and portability of certain security clearances, and reducing visa-processing times; and
  • Permitting short-term study on a tourist visa.

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 hundreds of member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.

USA*Engage ( is a coalition of small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad.

With nearly 10,000 members in all 50 states and more than 150 countries, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education.