U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States has had the difficult task of balancing its traditional openness to foreign visitors and ensuring security:
"When we make it harder for terrorists to travel, we make it harder for them to attack us. And it is absolutely vital for us, all of us, to enhance the security of international travel... We recognize, though, that striking a balance is important. And we certainly do not want to make things more difficult for legitimate travelers. I know that some of our initial security measures after September 11th have caused delays in getting visas and even led some foreign citizens to believe that the United States is no longer welcoming to them. We've heard these legitimate concerns and we are doing everything that we can to improve our visa policy while also maintaining our security."
Since September 2001, the United States has taken steps to make it easier to travel to the United States while maintaining security. It has created five hundred new consular positions that help expedite the process of obtaining U.S. visas. As a result of this and other measures, the number of foreign travelers in America has increased every year since 2001 and more U.S. visas are being issued today than at any time since September 11th, 2001.
The United States also plans to introduce an electronic visa application process and will begin testing how digital video conferencing technology could facilitate the processing of visas. This could make it dramatically easier for many foreign citizens who now have to travel great distances to be interviewed by a U.S. consular officer. The United States, says Secretary of State Rice, has heard the legitimate concerns of travelers worldwide and is responding with changes for the better:
"The troubles that you have heard about or may have even experienced in 2002 are no longer the case in 2006."
America's doors, she says, are now more open, even as its borders are more secure.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.