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U.S. Denying Visas to Korean Students

Posted September. 06, 2006 07:01,   


Until early August, Lee, a 21-year-old senior at Kyunghee University, was excited about an internship opportunity in the United States. However, he is now studying in Singapore.

He was to visit the U.S. to participate in the “Special Training Program on Trade for Future Businessmen,” co-sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) and the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), but the U.S. Embassy in Korea did not issue him a visa.

Seventeen out of 22 students who were set to be educated in the U.S., including Lee, did not receive U.S. visas. Among them, 12 gave up going to the U.S. and are currently studying in other countries as Lee did.

It was identified that the U.S. Embassy in Korea did not issue visas for a number of college students who even had letters of guarantee issued by the Korean government.

The KITA stated on September 5 that the U.S. Embassy in Korea refused to issue visas for 17 Korean college students, who applied for visas for tourism (B1) to attend internship training in the U.S. as part of the KITA college student overseas training program, on the grounds that their documents were “not properly filled out.”

Since 2000 when the training program was launched, a total of 227 students have received internship training in the U.S. until last year. This is the first time ever that trainees’ visa applications have been rejected, said the KITA.

“It is incomprehensible why the U.S. Embassy in Korea this year is suddenly refusing to issue visas to college students, whose return to Korea is guaranteed by the Korean government,” said a KITA official. “What makes us more frustrated is that they are not giving a clear reason for all this.”

Some KITA insiders analyze, “As the visa waiver negotiations for Koreans have begun, the U.S. embassy might be stricter in applying the conditions for visa issuance so that they could maintain a visa rejection percentage of three percent.”

In order to join the U.S. government’s visa waiver program, a country needs to meet the condition that the visa rejection percentage for its people should be below three percent for two consecutive years.

Korea and the U.S. are currently negotiating visa waiver for Koreans, but the visa rejection percentage rose from 3.2 percent during October 2004-September 2005 to 3.5 percent during October 2005-late July 2006.

In an endeavor to comply with the U.S. visa waiver provision of the “visa rejection percentage below three percent,” the Korean government recommends that those whose visa application is highly likely to be rejected should refrain from applying.

In response, the U.S. Embassy in Korea reiterated, “It is the embassy’s own authority to decide whether or not to issue a visa; it is nonsense that we are being strict in issuing visas due to the ‘three percent rule.’”

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