On May 18, thirty professional science societies in the USA, including IMS, ASA, CBMS, INFORMS and SIAM, signed a letter to the US Department of State, responding to the new guidelines for visa applicants. The letter expressed concern that the requirement of supplemental information would have a negative effect on those pursuing academic study and scientific research, stating that, “Academic and scientific exchange fuels the innovations essential to strengthening the US economy and improving the lives of US citizens.”

Kathie Bailey, Director of the Board on International Scientific Organizations at the National Academies, reported an update following the community comment period: “Not all applicants will be asked to complete the supplementary form, but the exact number of applicants who will be asked to complete it is still unknown. The new questions will be voluntary, but the form states that, ‘failure to provide the information may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application’.”

The letter from societies can be viewed on the AAAS website at https://mcmprodaaas.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/DS-5535%20Supplemental%20Questions%20for%20Visa%20Applicants%20Emergency%20Submission%20Comment%20051817%20FINAL.pdf

The National Academies International Visitors Office (IVO) provides direct assistance to scientists, engineers, and students in those fields who are experiencing difficulties or delays with US visa applications. The IVO works directly with the Department of State to seek resolution of those problems. Individuals experiencing difficulties should complete the questionnaire on the IVO’s webpage (http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/biso/visas/index.htm). The IVO also works with organizers of large scientific meetings (over 100 foreign attendees), and registers those meetings with the Department of State.

If you are a non-US student with questions about traveling to the US for study, the NAFSA: Association of International Educators has created an excellent FAQ resource available at https://www.nafsa.org/2017/03/15/tips-for-surviving-in-a-time-of-immigration-uncertainty/.