A good interview with Steve Maxner, chairman of the board of directors of the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF), which appeared in the 19 July 2010 issue of the English language daily, Viet Nam News. (Dr. Maxner is also director of the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University.)
A little-known fact about the origins of the VEF… On its website and in most articles about the VEF appears the following statement “The Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) is an independent federal agency created by the U.S. Congress and funded annually by the U.S. Government.” This is partly true. In fact, it is a scholarship-for-debt program; the funding actually comes from the Vietnamese government. VEF’s annual budget is $5 million ($1 million for administration and $4 million for fellowships) out of a total of $11 million that Vietnam transfers annually to the US.
For detailed information about historical context of VEF’s funding, check out this 2005 article entitled Moving Vietnam Forward (PDF) that I wrote for International Educator magazine.
Regarding US visa policy, student visa applicants must 1) be bona fide students; 2) have the ability to pay for their education and living expenses, and 3) demonstrate their intent to return home upon completion of their studies. I agree with NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the premier international education professional association in the US, which published a policy report last year calling on the government to abolish the third and most controversial requirement. According to the report, which I wrote about in a previous post…
Failure to prove this inherently un-provable negative constitutes by far the most common reason for visa denial for international students. And yet of course, both the applicants and the consular officers know that international students will have the opportunity under other provisions of law to apply for change of status in order to remain in the United States after graduation—and U.S. companies actively recruit them to do so. The reality is that some applicants intend to avail themselves of this opportunity, some don’t, and many have no specific intention one way or the other. No public policy purpose is served by basing visa policy on the pretense that this is not so. The decision on whether or not students can become immigrants is best made when they actually apply for that status.