Oversight of Foreign Nationals43

This section briefly describes the current and emerging system of granting permission, to non-U.S. citizens through the visa system, for both short-term and extended stays, as well as two of the tracking systems. Issues related to sharing information with non-U.S. citizens are addressed in Chapter 3. The system is still evolving, so any description of current practice runs the risk of becoming rapidly out-of-date.44 At present, however, September 11th and its aftermath have significantly increased the level of scrutiny, the time involved, and the opacity of the process. It should also be noted that, beyond the requirements to designate responsible individuals in affected institutions, to date laws and regulations related to individuals have been almost entirely aimed at rejection and prevention. That is, they have been aimed to limit access rather than to create a process of licensing or certification that would convey some more general, authoritative approval for working in life sciences research comparable, for example, to the licenses doctors must obtain to practice medicine.

The September 11th terrorist attacks greatly increased the concern and accelerated the plans for improving efforts to provide adequate scrutiny of visa applications and to track foreign nationals once they entered the United States. Foreign scholars planning shorter visits are also affected by increased concern for security, with impacts on the ability of researchers to take part in international meetings, conferences, or international research collaborations. Over time, these various restrictions could potentially alter the way research is conducted and have the potential to impede scientific progress in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been given responsibility for the policy guidance and regulation governing the issuance of visas, with the Secretary for

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