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US visa rules anger stranded students
( 2004-02-03 16:22) (eastday.com)

A large, but unknown, number of local students who returned home from schools in the United States for the Spring Festival are stuck in Shanghai waiting for US officials to conduct background checks.

Due to a new policy issued recently by the US Department of Defense, non-American students studying in some high-tech majors such as computers or telecommunications must undergo the checks before they can renew their visas and return to the United States.

The policy was set up to prevent students from leaking information that could be used to build weapons to terrorists.

"It makes me crazy and I can't re-enter the United States to continue my study after winter vocation," said a 26-year-old man, who came back to Shanghai at the beginning of last month.

The source, who declined to reveal his name or the university he is studying at, is a Phd candidate majoring in electronic engineering. He said he was doing a research on telecommunication signals before he left the university.

"Our family was shocked when the local US consulate informed me that I have to wait for the 'visa check'," he said.

The state department said that more than 80 percent of background checks are resolved in two or three weeks, but others may take several months or longer.

"The semester began at the end of last month and I am stranded in the city," he said. He is not alone. Five of the eight students he knows of who returned to the city from the same university are stuck in Shanghai waiting for visas.

For students from countries like China, for whom only six-month visas are available, visa renewals and background checks are required every time they leave the United States.

Hundreds of those waiting for new visas in China shared their experiences on a Tsinghua University's online forum.

The members of the forum faxed a letter to the US Department of Defense, but received no response.

Fearing visa problems due to the regulation, many Chinese students chose to stay in America during the Spring Festival, a Chinese traditional festival for family reunion.

Wang chun, an official working in a public section of the local US consulate, said he knew nothing about the background checks.

Officials in the visa section were unavailable for comment Monday.

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