Greasing Visa Approvals

Give me your tired, your poor, and, as of last month, your well-heeled.

The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) understandably wants to speed up its snail-paced processing of those who want to work in the United States. But the way to do it is not through a two-tiered pricing system separating haves from have-nots.

In a plan approved by Congress last year, the INS will fast-track applicants for temporary work visas who are willing to pay an added $1,000. They'll hear back in two weeks instead of the usual two months or more.

That should make employers, who say they need more foreign workers, happy. And the INS says it will use the money from the 80,000 folks a year it expects to pay the extra money (mostly scientists and executives) to improve its overloaded system.

Heavy backlogs no doubt prodded the agency to come up with this idea. More than half a million applicants for naturalization and other INS services - out of 3 million reviewed - wait just shy of two years to be processed.

For some government services, paying more should mean quicker service. More postage will get the Post Office to deliver a letter faster. But paying extra for quicker government permission to do something is unfair.

And such a practice doesn't befit the INS, which processes new citizens and is supposed to promote American values - one of which is equal access.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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