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Concerns about visas for scientists to attend international scientific meetings

The Council is concerned that measures taken by some national authorities are making the visa application process unpleasant, drawn out, obscure, expensive and unpredictable. In some countries, this has become a significant obstacle to the holding of international scientific meetings.

The International Council for Science (ICSU) promotes the free movement and association of scientists, including their participation at international scientific meetings. Both conference organisers and participants have the responsibility to be familiar with and follow the visa application and issuing processes of the conference host country, including the timing requirements for submission of visa applications. Recognising this, the Council is seriously concerned that measures taken by some national authorities, ostensibly to prevent illegal immigration, are increasingly making the visa application process unpleasant, drawn out, obscure, expensive and unpredictable. In some countries, this has become a significant obstacle to the holding of international scientific meetings.

Two recent examples illustrating the problem are the science congresses of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) and the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) in the United Kingdom during 2013. The two scientific unions, both ICSU Members, reported that many bona fide scientists encountered difficulties when applying for their visas and that many of them were not issued visas at all. Based on the substantial documentation available, the Council condemns the degrading procedures applied to the scientists, who had personal invitations and return tickets to attend these meetings.

The International Council for Science calls on the relevant authorities in all countries to facilitate the visa process for bona fide scientists to enable them to attend scientific meetings in their countries. Additionally, the Council alerts its Membership that in planning international scientific meetings, including the choice of venue, visa regulations should be an important consideration in the decision-making process.

Related links:

UK visa problems worry scientists, Nature, 4 February 2014

Visa Labyrinth, Science, 31 January 2014

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