When Nana Dankwa ’04 of Ghana applied for his student visa to come to Yale, he waited in line at the American Embassy from 2 a.m. until 4 p.m. for several days before he got approval. Now that regulations likely will become stricter in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Dankwa said he fears his younger sister will face even more difficulties when she applies to colleges next year.
As the American government considers measures that may tighten control of student visas and limit the access of foreign students to some scientific materials, Yale officials are watching to see how the actions will affect the University.
Richard Jacob, Yale’s associate vice president for federal relations, said a bill has passed in the House requiring stricter background checks for student visas, but the legislation currently is stalled in the Senate.
“Leadership has not set aside time to take up the bill,” Jacob said. “[But] I do expect that Congress will return to and intends to pass both the immigration and the bioterrorism legislation.”
Jacob said the Bush administration is looking to change rules regarding the use of materials like anthrax and botulin toxin. He added that the government is looking at whether it is a security risk to admit some international students to study subjects like engineering and microbiology.
“We’re not sure where that’s going,” Jacob said. “We don’t want to get into a situation where a student could get admitted into the country and not be able to study whatever they want to at Yale, so we’re following that pretty closely.”
Jacob said he expects more definitive information on scientific research policies by the end of March.
As questions remain about possible difficulties for foreign students, the University is continuing its efforts to internationalize. Yale now has need-blind admissions for international students, and Richard Shaw, the dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, said more international students applied this year than last year and more were admitted. He also said the admissions office helps admitted students obtain visas.
Shaw said Yale rarely gets many applicants from the Middle East, but added that he hopes prospective students know that national policy would not have an effect on whether they were admitted.
Ann Kuhlman, the director of Yale’s Office of International Students and Scholars, said the only legislation that has fully passed is the Patriot Act, which mandates that the Immigration and Naturalization Service get the Student and Exchange Visitor Information Program up and running by January 2003.
“We’re watching the legislation,” Kuhlman said. “[We’re] beginning to figure out how Yale will organize itself to comply.”
Kuhlman said the planning is mainly logistical since the University already keeps records of the information the program will compile.
Dankwa said his sister will have to wait to see how the changes affect her ability to get a student visa next year.
“Presumably, it’s even more difficult and I don’t know how it’s going to be [in Ghana],” Dankwa said.