Sunday, July 24, 2005

Today's Opinion

The following is an excerpt from Steve Forbes column in the July 4, 2005 edition of Forbes magazine.

Asinine Way to Treat Ultimate Asset: People

The Bush administration is doing the economy long term harm by not reforming our post-9/11 immigration and visa policies. Since the terrorist attacks, foreigners have had to go through considerably more hassle to enter this country. No one is arguing about the mortal necessity of tightening our screening procedures. But it defies belief that this, the most technologically advanced of nations, can't come up with software and hardware to expeditiously assist in determining who should and should not gain entrée.

Despite the weak dollar, the number of visitors from overseas during the past three years is down 23%. International conventions and seminars are not taking place in the U.S. because organizers can't be sure their delegates will be allowed into the country.

More alarmingly, foreign students are increasingly turning to non-U.S. universities. Australia, Canada and other nations have been effectively luring these students by assuring them that if they qualify, they won't have to undergo repeated, humiliating hassles at their borders. By contrast, foreign students now in the U.S. know that when they go home for summer vacation or holidays, their probability of returning to school is no sure thing.

Unless wannabe visitors to the U.S. are from one of 27 visa-free countries, they are required to pay a $100 application fee for a visa. This fee is not refunded if an application is denied. To add insult to injury, the "30-day" processing time for a visa can turn into months.

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