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US to have automated student visa checks

Washington, May 7 (IANS) In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the US expects to have an automated system in place this month to close the student visa gap that allows many to enter the country even after they cease to be students.

“I think by the end of the month, certainly, we probably will have a technological solution to this particular issue,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said Monday during a public service forum in Washington, according to Politico, an influential Washington newspaper.

Napolitano confirmed reports last week that, in the meantime, officials with US Customs and Border Protection are “manually” checking to make sure student visas issued overseas are still valid.

“One of the things that we are doing now is checking manually the most recent student visa information because…it changes all the time, students add, students drop, etc., with customs information, which is held in a different place. For the time being, that’s actually being done manually,” she said.

Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, accused of covering up for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, reportedly entered the US via JFK Airport in New York on Jan 20 even though his visa was cancelled after the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth removed him from their student rolls on Jan 4.

Last week, Tazhayakov was charged with conspiracy to destroy evidence of the Boston Marathon bombings. He’s being held without bail.

Napolitano, according to Politico, didn’t explain Monday precisely why the student visa system still had gaps, but she said that after each terrorist attack or attempted attack, the system is adjusted.

But she acknowledged that one concern is that students not be detained for prolonged periods of time because of record-keeping mistakes or glitches.

“We’re trying to be sensitive to the fact that there’s a lot of traffic back and forth,” she was quoted as saying. “Our country is enriched by students coming from abroad.”

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