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06.06.2003 13:09:00 

Организация, в которой состоят все спонсоры - The Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange лоббирует наши с вами общие интересы. Читайте письмо Колину Пауэлу по поводу задержки виз в Москве.

June 5, 2003

The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary
Department of State
Washington, D.C.  20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

I regret that the Alliance must contact you about another significant problem in visa adjudication.  By our estimates, there are approximately 7000 applications for summer work/travel participants pending in Russia.
Many of these applications already have been submitted, while others are queued up to enter the embassy's very constricted pipeline.  The economic and political damage is likely to be significant if this backlog is not dealt with promptly.

The 7000 participants still applying or trying to do so in Moscow represent well over $2 million in revenue for American NGO sponsors, who of course have salary, benefits, and other overhead expenses to meet.

In addition, the economic impact on American employers waiting for these students will be severe.  A service contractor for Yellowstone National Park, for example, plans to employ some 900 summer work/travel students, mostly from Russia and Poland.  Yellowstone would have a very hard time compensating for a sudden shortfall in seasonal staff.

The summer work/travel program was designed for students exactly like these: students who will benefit (as our nation will) from a first-hand encounter with the United States and the American people, but who cannot afford the cost of an American education.  The public dismay in Russia is likely to be significant if a large number of these students never make it through the visa process.  Moreover, there is likely to be an unfortunate ripple affect for U.S.-Russia relations:  American employers disappointed this year will not in the future seek or accept Russian students, thus diminishing a significant avenue for building mutual understanding and respect between our two countries.

Through informal conversations with the Department, we have heard the embassy's concern that not all applications were submitted by the end of April.  This is true, but we do not believe it is either an adequate explanation for the current logjam or a reason not to address the current problem aggressively.

It is also true, for example, that a significant number of applications that reached the embassy in early April, well ahead of its preferred deadline, still await action.  Moreover, the many and well-known performance problems with SEVIS and the war in Iraq understandably have slowed the application process.  We respectfully submit that sponsors who have worked in
partnership with the U.S. government for decades should not be held responsible for these factors, and that sponsors, the embassy, and the Department should work together to find ways to resolve this situation.

As we understand the current situation on the ground in Moscow, the embassy accepts new applications for only one hour per day.  This slow pace is not making sufficient progress in reducing the backlog.  The problem is compounded by an almost complete lack of communication from the embassy to sponsors.  Sponsors do not know what progress is being made, whether all
applications will eventually be accepted, or how the embassy is selecting the applications it does adjudicate.  Efforts to secure answers to these questions have been unsuccessful.

Mr. Secretary, we seek your help in creating, on an emergency basis, a transparent process to adjudicate as many applications as possible in the shortest feasible time frame.  American NGO sponsors are prepared to invest extraordinary efforts in making such a process work, but to do so, need clear communication from the embassy about how it intends to proceed and how
sponsors might provide additional support.

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