Student Visas Under More Scrutiny

Kristine Combs, Director of the International Student Office
Kristine Combs, Director of the International Student Office

AMARILLO, TX - Some lawmakers say improving our visa process is part of being several steps ahead of terrorists. Some are pushing for a closer look at student visas like the one issued to a Lubbock college student accused of plotting a terrorist attack.

Foreign students need to pass several requirements and fill out a lengthy amount of paper work to be admitted. However, not all students receive the same amount of scrutiny.

Each student's specific area of study plays a huge role. For example, foreign students looking to study nuclear engineering, or chemistry, will receive a more thorough background check before being issued a visa.

According to a West Texas A & M administrator no system is perfect and it is up to the United States consulate in each country to conduct the necessary background checks.

"If they change the process, first I don't know how they would change the process and I'm not really sure what part of the change the university would incur. Certainly we're educators and we're here for students to earn their degrees. I don't see our job as law enforcement" said Kristine Combs, Director of the International Student Office.

Congressman Mac Thornberry said in a statement sent to NewsChannel10:

"We always need to look for lessons learned, and screening students who come to our country is a place where we need a thorough review. It is important for people across the world to come to the United States to study, learn and experience our culture and our values. But our agencies and those in foreign countries need to do a better job of screening potential students and of keeping track of them once they get here."

After 9/11 every university with an international student program like WT was required to have the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, known as SEVIS. This system allows them to report whether foreign students are enrolling into classes to the Department of Homeland Security.

According to Combs, these students pass through many checkpoints along the way. However, it all begins in each students' home country.

"As a university we are required to make sure that they are admissible to the university that they have met financial requirements and we issue the document. It is up to the U.S. consulate in the home country, that's the first line of defense, whether they get the visa or not" said Combs.

WT currently has a little more than 220 international students who represent around 38 different countries. The majority of whom are from mainland China.