In a few days LSA sophomore Taaha Haq will wake up early and
head to Detroit to get his mug shot taken – again.
Part of Haq’s academic visa requirement is to regularly register
and be photographed at the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigrant
Services, previously called Immigration and Nationalization
But at least Haq, a Pakistan native, is able to study at the
While many prospective students from other countries face
difficulties and inconveniences when acquiring and maintaining
visas, other students are flatly denied entry into the country.
Now a national petition originating at Yale University is
calling on the federal government to reform academic visa programs
to make them less stringent.
Organizers are also pushing universities nationwide to publicly
advocate the need for academic visa reforms.
Petition organizer and Yale University graduate student Qin Qin
said international students are victims of the efforts to tighten
homeland security after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Especially at a large institution like the University of
Michigan, there are so many international students so the
universities need to be supportive of all their students and ask
the federal government to make reforms,” Qin said.
Haq faces special registration every time he leaves or enters
the country – a new requirement since Sept. 11.
“A lot of students I know from Pakistan decided to study in
Canada or Great Britain because getting visas isn’t as stressful in
those countries,” he added.
With more than 4,000 international undergraduate and graduate
students on campus, the International Center works with the
students on visa issues and other adjustment aid.
International Center Director Rudy Altamirano was an
international student from the Philippines twenty years ago. Now a
U.S. citizen, he said academic visa policies need revision.
“I recognize the need for homeland security but international
students make a very significant intellectual contribution,”
“Tightened security makes international students hesitant to go
back home in fear that they won’t be able to enter the United
A reformed appeals process for students who are denied visas and
added provisions to allow international students to change their
visa status or renew their visas without leaving the country are
some of the reforms advocated on the petition.
But the petition has yet to be formally given to the
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigrant Services, which works
under the Department of Homeland Security, has stated that one of
the bureau’s immediate priorities is to promote national security
and improve immigration customer services.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the number of student
visas issued have decreased from 226,465 between October 1999 and
August 2000 to 174,479 in 2002-2003, according to the State