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Leading science, higher-education and engineering groups urge six improvements to U.S. visa quagmire

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than 20 science, higher-education and engineering groups, representing some 95 percent of the U.S. research community, today urged the federal government to adopt six practical recommendations for solving the current visa-processing crisis, by removing unnecessary barriers to multi-national discoveries.

The recommendations are designed to combat "the misperception that the United States does not welcome international students, scholars and scientists," according to a joint statement by AAAS, the world's largest general science society, the Association of American Universities (AAU) and other top groups.

The statement is believed to be the first time that U.S. science and academic leaders have endorsed a comprehensive plan to address the visa-processing quagmire, which emerged from heightened security concerns in the wake of terrorist attacks.

"We are resolute in our support of a secure visa system and believe that a more efficient system is a more secure one," the groups said in a statement routed to U.S. policymakers. "We also are confident that it is possible to have a visa system that is timely and transparent, that provides for thorough reviews of visa applicants, and that still welcomes the brightest minds in the world."

While "the need to ensure national security is indisputable," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science, "legitimate applications from scholars and students seeking to improve human welfare must not become snared in red tape. Scientific advances to combat HIV and AIDS, hunger, terrorism and many other crises will require the insights and contributions of scholars from many regions."

The joint statement expresses strong support for the U.S. government's efforts to establish new visa policies while bolstering security.

AAU President Nils Hasselmo said: "The flow of international students, scholars and researchers to
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