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Statement on the Negative Impact of US Visa Rules on Science and Technology

Adopted by the Biophysical Society Executive Council on February 17, 2004

New security procedures introduced following the terrorist attacks on the United States have had a significant impact on the scientific community. The Biophysical Society recognizes the importance of national security and supports efforts to safeguard the United States. At the same time, the Biophysical Society asks that needs for national security be balanced with the need to maintain international scientific and technological cooperation and collaboration. If not corrected, current visa regulations will hinder the effectiveness of the United States research enterprise. It is this very research that guarantees the country’s continuing economic strength and security.

Science is international in nature. Foreign-born scientists play a critical role in the nation’s economic vitality, national security, and quality of life. Changes implemented to secure the United States have resulted in long delays and denials of U.S. visas for many foreign-born scientists and students. These delays and denials have affected the studies of graduate students, ruined scientific experiments requiring constant monitoring, negatively impacted the work of laboratories staffed by foreign-born post-doctorates, and hindered the collaboration of U.S. scientists working with peers in other countries.

International travel by both legal residents and scientists residing abroad is being impeded by the delays and uncertainty associated with securing a visa.

The Biophysical Society has recent evidence from its own membership. Three of 26 students awarded grants to attend the 2004 Biophysical Society meeting were unable to attend the meeting because they were unable to secure a visa in time. These students were selected based on the merit of their proposals and the potential of their research. Four of 30 scientists scheduled to attend a summer institute held in 2003 were denied visas. These numbers do not include those who chose not to apply because they expected to be blocked from entering the U.S. Thus, the Biophysical Society suspects that the problem is even greater than statistics will show.

Therefore, the Council of the Biophysical Society, through its unanimous vote in favor of this statement, urges the U.S. government and Congress to re-examine its visa rules and policies and to take the necessary steps to ensure international scientific and technological cooperation and collaboration.


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