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US Homeland Security Department to Investigate Visa Applicants - 2003-10-07

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has launched a new plan to investigate visa applicants from Muslim countries suspected of having links to terrorist groups.

Homeland Security officials say agents have already been sent to Saudi Arabia to improve the visa probes. More agents are due to begin working next year at U.S. embassies and consulates in Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

Officials say the nations were chosen because of both the high volume of visa requests in those countries and the presence of suspected al-Qaida members in them.

News of the plan comes days after the State Department agreed to transfer most of the control over visa applications to Homeland Security officials.

The agreement allows State Department diplomats to continue processing most travel requests to the United States. But Homeland Security agents now will investigate suspicious applications and make the final decision to grant visas.