New policy on foreign scientists at ARS laboratories

Jerry D. Cohen cohen047 at
Fri Apr 12 20:45:37 EST 2002

Dear Colleagues:  An important aspect of US science has been the 
ability of key US laboratories to serve as a home for students, 
postdocs and visiting scientist from around the world.  The 
international nature of science has advantages for both host and 
those hosted.  It represents an important aspect of international 
understanding, cooperation and results in an educated population of 
scientists with a world view.  In this recent era of higher concerns 
for security it might be expected that some miss-directed efforts 
will result.  A very recent decision by the Administrator's Council 
of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (see below) is, to my mind, 
such a poorly thought out decision.  In an effort to comply with 
"homeland security" mandates, ARS proposes to stop bringing in 
visiting scientists from the developing world and other distant lands 
to learn the scientific research necessary to solve critical 
agricultural problems.  Historically, many of the scientists who have 
come to ARS through such programs have returned to key positions in 
their home counties where their knowledge of US society has 
contributed, beyond all costs, to furthering international 
understanding.  This decision by the ARS will impact, at this point, 
only those laboratories within the Agricultural Research Service, a 
research organization funded at about $800M per year.  This 
represents about 20% of all the federal funds for non-medical 
biological research in the US.  If you are concerned about this 
decision and the impact it will have on scientific cooperation, I 
would like to encourage you to contact your Congressman (see and Senators (see 
about this issue.  In addition, you might want to send a note to 
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman (Ann.Veneman at

Although I no longer work for ARS, it is still important to me that 
they use our tax dollars wisely and that the significant funds 
allocated for such research serve the nations interests. 
International cooperation has brought us the sequence of the 
Arabidopsis genome, rice is on its way and by the year 2010 we may 
know the function of most, if not all, of the Arabidopsis genome. 
The trust and cooperation built by such programs requires strong 
international contacts established over many years.   It would be a 
shame to see international programs and efforts diminished in the 
future by actions such as these.

Best wishes, Jerry Cohen

>From: "Edward Knipling" <EKNIPLING at>
>To: <ADMARS at>,<CREXROAD at>,
>Subject: Foreign Scientists, Employees, and Visitors in ARS Facilities
>	and Laboratories
>April 12, 2002
>SUBJECT:	Foreign Scientists, Employees, and Visitors in
>		ARS Facilities and Laboratories
>           TO:	Administrator's Council
>      FROM:	Edward B. Knipling		/s/
>		Acting Administrator
>This memo documents Agricultural Research Service (ARS) policies 
>regarding  non-U.S. citizen scientists, employees, and visitors in 
>ARS laboratories and facilities.
>This new guidance is driven by and consistent with the Deputy 
>Secretary's memo of February 27, 2002, indicating that USDA will no 
>longer serve as an Interested Government agency (IGA) or sponsor for 
>visa applications for non-U.S. citizens.  This matter is related to 
>national security concerns.  You have previously received a copy of 
>the Deputy Secretary's memo and we have discussed the new policies 
>and associated issues on several recent occasions during our weekly 
>Administrator's Council teleconferences.
>The USDA policy is that agencies, including ARS, will no longer fill 
>out; serve as signatory for; or otherwise process visa applications, 
>home residency waiver applications, or other sponsoring documents 
>(including but not limited to forms IAP-66 and I-129) that are 
>required by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for their 
>issuance of a visa or visa extension to a non-U.S. citizen.
>For ARS, this means all non-U.S. citizens in our laboratories and 
>facilities must have a valid, non-expired visa in place, or have 
>permanent resident status.
>For non-U.S. citizens now employed or otherwise working in ARS 
>laboratories, under a valid visa, they may continue to do until such 
>time that their visa expires, subject to the term of their 
>employment appointment.  Also, it is permissible for non-U.S. 
>citizens that receive a new visa or visa extension from INS, as a 
>result of sponsorship by a non-USDA entity, to work in ARS 
>laboratories.  However, as indicated above, ARS will not sponsor 
>visa extensions or new visa applications.
>Additional guidelines on visa requirements applicable to new 
>employment or extensions of employment of non-U.S. citizens are 
>provided in an enclosure.
>Special criteria for employment suitability applies to all personnel 
>working in the five ARS animal and plant health laboratories that 
>are designated as Biosafety Level 3 (BSL 3).  These are located at 
>Plum Island, New York; Ames, Iowa; Athens, Georgia; Laramie, 
>Wyoming; and
>Administrator's Council     				     2
>Frederick, Maryland.  Because of the research conducted on high 
>consequence pathogens in these laboratories, non-U.S. citizens 
>having a valid visa or residency are also subject to a background 
>security/personnel suitability check and must be approved for ARS 
>laboratory access on a case-by-case basis by the ARS Homeland 
>Security office.  Visitors to these facilities must be escorted at 
>all times.  A separate Policy and Procedure (P&P) document currently 
>is under development related to personnel and other biosecurity 
>aspects of the BSL 3 laboratories and other facilities working with 
>potentially high consequence pathogens.
>The challenges that the new USDA and ARS policies have caused for 
>both ARS research programs and our non-U.S. citizen employees and 
>cooperators are recognized.  A number of important questions and 
>other issues have arisen for which we are seeking answers and 
>resolutions.  As we implement this important policy for protecting 
>homeland security, we will do all that we can to support the 
>research capacity and collaborative relationships of our 
>  Guidance on ARS Employment of Noncitizens 
>This attachment provides additional information on employment 
>issues. These guidelines reflect adherence to the Departmental 
>New Employment:
>1. 	All written offers of employment to non-U.S. citizens made by 
>Human Resources Division (HRD) on/before February 27, 2002, will be 
>honored if the new employee has a valid visa, regardless of type.
>2.	No new offers of employment will be made to any non-U.S. 
>citizen requiring an H-1B or TN visa.  These visas are only issued 
>by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) if an employer 
>provides documentation of their intent to hire the individual 
>pending approval of the visa.  For both of these types of visas, ARS 
>is considered the "sponsor" and these visas are employer specific.
>3.	New offers of employment may be made to non-U.S. citizens for 
>Postdocs, Letter of Authority (LA), and Student Temporary Employment 
>Program (STEP) positions if they are a permanent resident (green 
>card) or if they have an employment authorization document which 
>does not require formal ARS sponsorship. 
>Extensions of Employment:
>1.	Extensions of appointments for non-U.S. citizens may be 
>submitted if they are a permanent resident (green card) or if they 
>have an employment authorization document which does not require 
>formal ARS sponsorship. 
>2.	No extensions of appointments for non-U.S. citizens can be 
>made if the action requires submission of an extension of their H-1B 
>or TN visa and this submission to INS was not made prior to February 
>27, 2002.
>Questions on specific cases and employment topics may be referred to 
>the servicing human resources specialist, team leader, or Branch 
>April 5, 2002

Dr. Jerry D. Cohen
Professor, Bailey Endowed Chair
University of Minnesota, Department of Horticultural Science
1970 Folwell Ave., 305 Alderman Hall
Saint Paul, MN 55108
Phone 612.624.9212; FAX 612.624.4941; Lab phone 612.624.1218
Email cohen047 at Web:
Editor-in-Chief, Plant Growth Regulation,

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