The U.S Senate passed the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act last week, calling for background checks on visa applicants from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, the Sudan and Syria.

The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in December. The bill also calls for more information to be provided on visa applications and for institutions of higher education to communicate better with the federal government about the status of foreign students.

Ann Kuhlman, director of Yale’s Office of International Students and Scholars, said the bill calls for schools to report within 30 days if an foreign student from any country does not matriculate. Kuhlman said the bill also calls for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the State Department to do biannual reviews to make sure that institutions are fully compliant.

“As it relates to [the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System], I think it impacts the institutions’ reporting requirements,” Kuhlman said. “And in terms of students, it is going to require all students to provide a little more information in visa applications and it reiterates the requirement of a background check for students from that set of countries. I think we have to remember that this bill came out of initially what were some very punitive proposals, proposals that we saw in October.”

The House still has to pass the version of the bill with the Senate’s amendments, and then President George W. Bush must sign the bill into law.

“Assuming that the legislation gets signed into law on May 1, by September 1, we may have additional requirements related to the visa issue and we would worry that this might come at a time that impacts students getting here in the fall, but again we don’t know for sure,” Kuhlman said.

–Naomi Massave