Qin Qin GRD ’05 has a friend whose wife applied for a visa five times with no success. More than a year after she began the process, she gained one on her sixth try and was able to join her husband in the United States. Qin said his friend’s experience makes him afraid to go home to Beijing, which he has not done in over a year.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, international students at schools across the country have found it more difficult to get visas in a timely manner. Responding to the problem, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, the Federation of Hospital and University Employees, which represents Yale’s unions, and 31 graduate student and postdoctoral associations and labor unions led a petition drive urging academic visa reform. The petition, signed by about 4,000 people nationwide, was presented to Congress yesterday.

GESO spokeswoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said the petition is part of a larger movement for immigrant rights.

“It is a part of the momentum that’s building around these immigrant freedom rights,” she said. “We do really feel like we could make a big change.”

The petition urges the U.S. government to create a more efficient security-check process, further extend provisions that allow academics to adjust their visa status without leaving the country, and create an appeals process for those who have been denied visas. It also encourages university presidents to publicize the value of international students in academic life, make clear the problems they face with the current visa system, and increase support for English as a second language training, housing and health care. GESO will meet with University Secretary Linda Lorimer next Tuesday to discuss the issues, Qin said.

Outside of universities, the public is still uninformed about international students and workers and the contribution they make to society, Qin said.

“We think it’s important for the university to take a very public side and make it more apparent to the public why American universities cannot afford to not have those things changed,” he said. “Not only the students, but also the labs suffered.”

Qin rode to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday on the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, an event that involved more than 800 immigrants boarding 18 buses in 10 cities to rally for immigrant rights on the way to the nation’s capitol.

“It’s attracting a lot of attention, so we hope we can also get the congress members who are our representatives to also pay attention to these issues and maybe propose some bills,” he said.

Seth said international graduate and post-doctoral students have become increasingly aware of these problems over the past year.

“The visa issue is something that became a real issue last spring,” she said. “International students got together over the summer to talk about it.”

In an Oct. 1 e-mail newsletter, the Yale Office of International Students and Scholars reminded students that they should carefully consider the information on the OISS Web site about new U.S. visas and “make plans accordingly.”

“International students and scholars applying for non-immigrant visas should be aware of the possibility of delays in the visa issuance process. While the situation has improved somewhat over the past 12 months, students and scholars from certain countries and/or in certain fields continue to experience delays in the process of getting a U.S. visa,” the Web site said.