Face Time at Embassies

Visas to visit the United States are getting harder to obtain - and that's not good.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the State Department has tightened up the process. Now it has told embassies they must schedule interviews with almost all applicants. But it won't send any additional personnel to help.

While applicants from 27 countries who don't need visas are exempt, what used to take days now takes two to three months. The slowdown hurts US businesses, especially tourism, education, and cultural exchange.

The new requirement assumes that an overworked consular officer handling dozens of applications a day can tell in a 1-1/2-minute interview whether an applicant is a terrorist. That seems a bit far-fetched. Congress must at least fund additional officers.

Meanwhile, terrorists can ford the Rio Grande or walk from Quebec into Vermont without a visa interview. US border security needs strengthening. But making people stand in longer lines at US embassies won't do it.

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