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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 19, 2004

[ ... ]

QUESTION: When the Secretary spoke to the USA Today Editorial Board, he was asked about what the U.S. can do to try and win, restore respect within the Muslim world in a post-9/11 world. One of the things he pointed out was that we're speeding up the whole visa process, student visas, tourist visas, business visas; it's getting a lot better.

On what is he basing that statement? Because that's not the impression I get.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'd look at the facts rather than the impression.

We have cleared out hundreds and hundreds of backlogged visa cases in the last month or two, cases that were backlogged in Moscow, cases that were backlogged at our Embassy in Beijing. I can try to get you the actual numbers of those. But there have been large categories of cases that are now handled more expeditiously and thousands of people who are waiting to come to the United States who have been cleared now and who are able to travel. So that's what he's basing it on.

QUESTION: Does that apply to -- because I thought he was answering the question about the Muslim world. You mentioned Russia but you didn't mention --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, those are the two specifics where the numbers were very large, but overall, there are any number of categories where the things have been smoothed out and made easier. It's not -- you know, it's not a one-hour visa process. It's a process that still requires security checks and where we do go through the appropriate security checks in every case because our first priority is to make sure that all the proper checks are done. But we can make that process go more smoothly and we have made that process go more smoothly.

QUESTION: Can you -- if you're going to check that, can you also find out what the denial and approval rate was on those? I mean, because if you cleared them out simply by stamping a "no" on every application, that's not much of a --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we're going to be able to pull out denial rates, but these are -- when I say cleared out, I mean issued. We've issued visas in many of these -- in almost all these backlogged cases.

Yeah. Okay, sir.

[ ... ]

[ End ]