Groups ask DOS and DHS to Address Visa Processing Concerns

January 31, 2003

The Honorable Colin Powell
U.S. Department of State
Harry S. Truman Building
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

We are writing to express the concern of many different organizations that delays and uncertainty in visa processing are negatively impacting our activities and the U.S. economy. We urge you, as you proceed in making necessary changes to enhance the security of our visa system, to ensure that adequate resources are devoted to minimizing delays and other impacts to business, higher education, the arts, medical facilities and other interests.

Since the attacks of September 11, we are aware of the critical importance of our system of screening foreign nationals for visas to visit, conduct business, or work in the United States. We fully support measures that will better screen out those who may wish to do us harm. However, we also understand the importance of our visa issuance process to the well being of many segments of our economy.

International visitors not only support one million jobs in the U.S. travel and tourism industries, they also provide needed workforce when U.S. workers are unavailable, support vital educational and cultural efforts, promote international trade, and seek the assistance of our world-renowned health care providers. Each of these purposes also serves our national interests.

The new screening procedures put into place in the last year have severely strained the capacity of the visa-issuing posts abroad, the visa office of the State Department in Washington, and the various other government entities involved in obtaining necessary clearances. The severe delays and uncertainty surrounding visa issuance for legitimate applicants has resulted in lost business opportunities for U.S. companies, delayed projects or movement of projects abroad, loss of jobs in some industries, workforce shortages, and other economic stresses.

The new Department of Homeland Security is charged with ensuring that “the overall economic security of the United States is not diminished by efforts, activities, and programs aimed at securing the homeland.” Because of the negative impacts to the economy and other national interests, we strongly urge you to devote all necessary resources to the streamlining of these new security procedures, and frankly evaluate the resource needs of any future planned changes (such as increasing visa interviews). These resource needs must be conveyed to Congress, to ensure that adequate funding is provided through annual appropriations. We will strongly support the effort to secure funding for these initiatives in Congress.

We greatly appreciate the difficult jobs you have in protecting our homeland and ensuring the continued ability of legitimate travelers to come to our shores. We urge you to devote the resources necessary to ensure that these dual missions are effectively carried out.


Academy for Educational Development
AFS Intercultural Programs
Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange
Alliances Abroad
American Arts Alliance
American Association of Intensive English Programs
American Chamber of Commerce in China
American Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi
American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
American Chamber of Commerce in India
American Chamber of Commerce in Japan
American Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai
American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore
American Council of Young Political Leaders
American Councils for International Exchange: ACTR/ACCELS
American Council on International Personnel
American Electronics Association
American Health Care Association
American Hotel and Lodging Association
American Immigration Lawyers Association
American Institute for Foreign Study
American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation
American Nursery and Landscape Association
American Symphony Orchestra League
Associated Builders and Contractors
Association of International Education Administrators
American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce
America–Mideast Educational and Training Services (AMIDEAST)
American-Scandinavian Foundation
Amity Institute
Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce
Aspire Worldwide
Association for International Practical Training
Association of Performing Arts Presenters
AYUSA Global Youth Exchange
Border Trade Alliance
British Universities North America Club: BUNAC
CDS International
CEC International Partners
College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)
Council of Graduate Schools
Council on International Educational Exchange
EF Foundation for Foreign Study
French-American Chamber of Commerce
Hong Kong-U.S. Business Council
Institute of International Education
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus
International Association for Exhibition Management
International Diplomacy Council
International Internship Programs
International Trade Alliance
Intrax WorkTravel
IREX: International Research & Exchanges Board
J.L. Deupree & Associates
LASPAU: Academic and Professional Programs for the Americas
Laurasian Institution
Minnesota Agricultural Student Trainee Program
NAFSA: Association of International Educators
National Club Association
National Council for Eurasian and East European Research
National Council for International Visitors
National Restaurant Association
North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance
The Ohio International Agricultural and Horticulture Internship Program of
The Ohio State University
Sister Cities International
Society for Human Resource Management
Travel Business Roundtable
Travel Industry Association of America
Theatre Communications Group
University and College Intensive English Programs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S.-India Business Council
U.S.-Korea Business Council
US-UK Fulbright Commission
World Education Services
World Heritage
World Learning
YMCA International Program Services

cc: Secretary Ridge (by separately addressed letter)

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03021441.