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US announces visa clampdown

Travelling and studying in the United States has become more difficult since the September 11 attacks

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss tourists and students face new visa restrictions for travelling to the United States as a result of the September 11 attacks.

From now on, any foreigner wishing to study in the US must have an approved student visa before beginning their studies. This will allow officials to carry out security checks before people enter the country.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is also proposing that people who want to switch from a tourist or business visa to a student visa return to their home country to apply.

The INS has been under pressure to tighten entry requirements after it was revealed that two of the September 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, entered the US on tourist visas before applying for student visas.

Tourist visas

In addition to the clampdown on student visas, the INS is also proposing to limit tourists and business travellers to 30-day visas, eliminating the current six-month minimum.

The maximum initial admission period for visitors would also be reduced from one year to six months. Tighter conditions would apply to those seeking visa extensions.

"The reason to make these changes is to increase our control on who is coming in and increase our awareness of what they intend to do here," said INS spokesman Bill Strassberger.

The US embassy in Bern said it did not believe the restrictions on student visas would lead to more applications in Switzerland since most Swiss already applied in advance.

swissinfo with agencies

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