The Foreign Service Journal, September 2004

business and education groups’ concerns. Foreign travel to the United States dipped by about 30 percent after the 9/11 attacks and is only now recovering. At the same time, Consular Affairs is definitely taking a tougher line with students and scholars. Visas Mantis checks have tripled since 2001 to more than 20,000 a year. In total, CA granted 474,000 student visas in 2003, down from 560,000 in 2001; and it approved only 74 percent of applications, compared to 80 percent before 9/11. Procedures are being streamlined for other categories of visa-holders as well. In late June, the State Department announced that as of July 16 it would no longer accept applications for renewal of “E,” “H,” “I,” “O,” “L,” and “P” visas by mail. Holders of these visas, who include entertainers, athletes, journalists, investors, executives and skilled and unskilled temporary workers, will have to go to U.S. embassies abroad where they can be fingerprinted and inter- viewed. The new policy could come under fire from companies who may have to pay for their employees to go abroad to be processed, but, accord- ing to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, there are no plans to create an office in the U.S. to han- dle the renewals. “We want to do interviews. We want to do finger- prints. We’re best set up to do that overseas,” he says. Ultimately, Jacobs says, “Consular Affairs has always had to balance the two goals: one is facilitating legitimate travel; the other is protection of U.S. borders.” Jacobs is the first to admit that CA is still working on finding the perfect balance, but she believes just as firmly that the agency has come a long way. F O C U S S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 4 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 29 A coalition of business groups says that delays in visa processing have cost U.S. exporters more than $30 billion since 2002.