Savvy Asian, European companies cashing in on stringent US visa rules
Wednesday February 2, 2005
Savvy Asian, European companies cashing in on stringent US visa
rules AFP Photo
Stringent US visa procedures are getting American companies
increasingly worried over business losses to competitors from Asia
and Europe, despite government assurances that the situation is
William Reinsch, president of the US National Foreign Trade Council,
said savvy European and Asian countries were welcoming with open
arms companies whose executives faced visa difficulties in the
He said foreigners would not easily discard the perception that they
were unwelcome in the United States, citing difficulties they faced
entering the country for education, business or tourism after the
September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
"It is going to take a long time to overcome that kind of
perception," Reinsch told a forum organized by the Global Business
Dialogue Inc. in which US State Department and Homeland Security
Department officials participated.
He effectively shrugged off claims by Janice Jacobs, the deputy
assistant secretary for visa services, and Lora Ries, the policy
director for immigration, that the government was slowly getting a
handle on the problem.
Reinsch, whose council is a leading advocacy group for the US
private sector, said he had met company representatives only last
month and that the problem had not been contained.
"There were idiosyncratic improvements here and there around the
edges but I think the problem persists," he said.
A recent study by the Santangelo Group, a Washington-based global
business consulting firm, said that business visa processing delays
and denials cost the US economy at least 30 billion dollars during
the year up to the summer of 2004.
It cited difficulties faced by business travellers from India,
China, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea, among other
Microsoft boss Bill Gates, speaking at the World Economic Forum in
Davos just this week, complained that stringent visa rules had a
negative effect on his company's competitiveness in the global
"There has been a 35 percent drop in Asians coming to our computer
science departments ... It really is a very bad thing for a very key
area," he was quoted saying. The US position as the "global IQ
magnet of the world" is being threatened, he warned.
Reinsch said US companies were finding it difficult to get customers
into the country to negotiate deals or attend trade shows.
They also faced problems sending executives for training or
personally participating in collaborative software or hi-tech
One American company quoted its Chinese client saying "we just don't
like to come to America anymore, it is too hard, too complicated, we
are not welcome," Reinsch said.
He cited another example where a group of Chinese engineers, who
could not obtain a US visa, were wooed by a European company with
personal help from the ambassador of the country involved.
In another case, a US company which temporarily notched up a huge
contract had to subsequently surrender it to its European branch
after failing to obtain a visa for its foreign client.
"What an increasingly large number of companies are going to do in
response to these kind of problems is simply to avoid the problem by
moving meetings, collaboration and facilities elsewhere," Reinsch
In the long term, for example, companies put off by the visa
problems are going to set up research centers in China, where there
are already 400 such centers operating, he said.
Reinsch said if visa approvals were to be entrusted to officials who
were concerned only about security and not business concerns, "I
would suggest that it is going to take a long time to fix the
perception that has arisen because tweaking isn't going to affect
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