Easier to get visas to US, says ambassador

Source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/4/29/nation/14103033&sec=nation

Saturday April 29, 2006

Easier to get visas to US, says ambassador

JOHOR BARU: It is easier now to obtain visas to the US, said its Ambassador to Malaysia Christopher J. LaFleur.

Describing the good US-Malaysia ties as one of the best kept secrets, he said that while he understood that there were concerns among Malaysians over US visa policies, the process of getting approvals for visas has been simplified.

We have gone a long way in correcting visa problems in Malaysia.

We didnt do it as well as we could have initially, but now all the delays that some applicants experienced in the months after Sept 11 have been all but been eliminated, he said during a dialogue session on US-Malaysia relations at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) on Friday.

He also said that the embassy here had the fastest turnover for visa applications than any embassy in East Asia.

More than 90% of visa applications are approved, while 99% of student visa applications get through.

We are happy to say that we now issue visas more quickly than we did before, he said.

According to him, twenty years ago, Malaysians represented the largest group of international students in many US universities, but since 1998, the number of Malaysian students had dropped by half. Thats a trend we want to reverse, he said.

On another matter, he said that it would encourage Malaysia to develop its own nuclear energy programme as an alternative to non-renewable fuel.

LaFleur said that if Malaysia was interested in pursuing such a programme, he would be delighted to provide contacts with relevant experts in the US.

Finding an alternative to non-renewable fuel will continue to be a challenge as the price of oil continues rising.

Since Malaysia is not a poor country, instead of assistance to Malaysia, our scientists can work together, he said.

LaFleur said that Malaysia was a responsible member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US had no problems with countries developing their own peaceful nuclear energy programmes as long as it honoured the IAEA objectives.

According to LaFleur, while nuclear energy was a cause for concern from an ecological point of view, it was the best alternative as it did not emit greenhouse gasses.

A dramatic effort is needed to find energy-efficient resources and President George W. Bush has called for a reduced dependence on non-renewable fuel in the US, he said.