A March 30, 2004 Department of State cable provides guidance on student visa processing, and reminds consular officials of the importance of student visas. In a related speech at a meeting of the Migration Policy Institute on March 25, and in subsequent communications with NAFSA, Ambassador Maura Harty (assistant secretary for consular affairs, Department of State) said that the department has again asked all of its consular posts worldwide to put in place plans to process student visa applications as effectively and efficiently as possible. While these plans will vary from post to post in view of individual circumstances, they would include such things as special windows for students, reserved interview times, priority in scheduling appointments, or dispensing with appointments and permitting walk-ins. Harty emphasized that it is a priority of her office to avoid missed start dates by international students due to visa interview delays. She also emphasized that schools must stress the importance to the students of planning ahead and starting the process as soon as possible.

Highlights of the cable include statements on:
  • The important role that foreign students play "within the U.S. educational community, in the U.S. economy, and in understanding abroad of U.S. society and values
  • The importance of posts preparing for the expected increase in student visa applications during the spring and summer months
  • The importance of encouraging students and exchange visitors to apply early, and confirming that although the visa cannot be issued sooner than 90 days before the program start date, the student can apply earlier than that for the visa
  • Reminding consular managers that they have the authority to establish special procedures to expedite student and exchange visitor applications
  • A review of SEVIS information
  • A review of factors consular officers should take into account when determining whether the student has an unabandoned residence abroad
  • A review of English language proficiency requirements and the legitimacy of coming to study English
  • A discussion of the difficulty of changing to F-1 status after entering as a B visitor AMDOC#: 200404001