Accelerate the security checks of Iranian students' visa

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According to the statistics published in 2017 [1], Iran is the 11th country with the most number of students in the United States. Each year, many Iranian students start their graduate programs in the fields of engineering, fundamental science, management sciences, etc. However, regarding the lack of diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.S., these students face many obstacles in obtaining their visa. They are forced to travel to the other countries such as UAE, Turkey or Armenia just to get interviewed by a U.S. consular. In the best scenario, their request for the visa will be refused under 221(g) section indicating additional processing is required before they can make the decision. The students’ cases undergo an enhanced screening and vetting requirements known as “Administrative Processing” which usually takes a long time (between 2 to 5 month) to get completed, to the extent that many of them miss their program’s start dates. It is also worth mentioning that the type of visa issued for these students is typically single entry, therefore, they are required to re-apply for visa and go through the same process in case they were to leave the United States. Meanwhile, although it is mentioned that the President Trump’s travel ban bear no effect on the Iranian students’ visas, these applicants are facing more problems than they ever did since the proclamation approval. According to the official statistics [2] announced by the U.S. Department of State, the number of student visas issued on June and July 2018 was only 193 which indicates a 66% decline compared to the same duration last year. While, in the past, a great number of Iranian students got their visas on their interview day, today all of the Iranian students are required to undergo security check processes. In addition, due to the recent travel ban for Iranian tourist travelers to the US, the student’s families cannot come to visit them for several years.

Obviously, continuing this situation will cause many problems for Iranian students and their related universities and academic centers in the U.S. Increased depression and stress among these scholars, losing their fundings and bursaries, being forced to start their two-year mandatory military service, to name but a few. This indefinite waiting has put these students in a limbo. Along with the students, the American universities will face a lot of issues. The projects assigned to these students will be suspended which ultimately could result in losing the research grants. In the long run, these problems will lead to a significant drop in the number of Iranian students in the United States.

Frustrated students, especially those who have been waiting more than two months for their visa to be issued, have been trying to follow up the status of their cases from the U.S. embassies. However, they all have received a template email indicating that the embassy could not provide any updates and they need to wait for the administrative processing to get completed. Now, as we are approaching the programs’ start date, which is chiefly in late August, there are more than 600 students still waiting for completion of their administrative processing.

We have been feeling discriminated for a long time now and honestly, we have found our way through it. We decided to come to the U.S. to do science with hopes of having equal rights to access information and education, regardless of race, color, and gender [3][4], even if that is just for a little while. We, the Iranian students, are fully aware of the current political conflicts between the two countries; nevertheless, we demand the U.S. State Department to support our voices [5] by accelerating the process of security checks. Moreover, we call for journalists to share the difficulties we face as an international student.