Visa delays keep Yalies abroad

Three incoming Yale freshmen and several returning students were unable to join their classmates this fall because of increased security measures that have prevented them from obtaining visas.

Ann Kuhlman, the director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said she could surmise that students who have had trouble seem to be males from predominantly Muslim and Arab countries. The students’ areas of study have also been factors in the visa delay.

“Across the institution, we have about 10 or 11 students who aren’t here yet,” Kuhlman said. “The State Department doesn’t make a public announcement about who is subjected to additional security clearances — [but] traditionally, the State Department has sought additional clearance on fields that are technology related.”

Kuhlman said the incoming freshmen were from Pakistan and Malaysia, and that several Malaysian students who did arrive at Yale this fall almost did not make it.

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said there is not much Yale can do to expedite the process.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned about the visa issues,” Brodhead said. “But we understand that the government has security issues which are not trivial.”

Brodhead and Kuhlman both noted that this situation is not unique to Yale, sincestudents from many institutions have had greater difficulty in obtaining visas this year.

“We’ve written letters of support and [made] inquiries of the State Department,” Kuhlman said. “Urgings on behalf of students have not moved their applications forward any faster, but not for lack of trying.”

Samar Abbas ’06, a citizen of Pakistan, said several of his friends will not be joining him at Yale this year because of delays in the visa process.

“The visa process used to be a one-step process which was only to the embassy,” Abbas said.

Now after the embassy approves an applicant’s visa, the State Department reviews the applications, which was how his friends got held back, Abbas said. He was told that the State Department would take 30 days to review his application and received approval in time, but his friends’ visas were held up for 60 days and still have not received approval, he said.

“They have asked the people at Yale to give them a letter that says their admission has been deferred for a year,” Abbas said. “And Yale has been very helpful and very considerate, so these guys can come next year.”

Kuhlman said that though international students have had problems obtaining visas before, she has never seen such extensive difficulties. More than a dozen Chinese students had trouble getting to Yale last year, but Kuhlman said only a couple of them did not get to enroll with their class.

Arafat Razzaque ’06 of Bangladesh was rejected by the U.S. embassy last year when he applied for a visa, but persisted and was able to matriculate this fall.

“It’s basically a problem that many students face which is that it’s hard to convince the interviewer that a student’s going to return to the country after he finishes his studies,” Razzaque said.

On his third attempt, after the start of the fall 2001 term, Razzaque obtained approval, but had to get Yale to defer his admission. Razzaque then received a tourist visa because student visas can only be issued within three months of matriculation. In June 2002, Razzaque returned to Bangladesh and obtained his student visa, but he said he has many friends who have not been as lucky as he was.

The Office of International Students and Scholars is also currently working to prepare for the implementation of new laws, such as the Enhanced Border Security Act, which takes effect on Sept. 11.

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