The Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule establishing fixed end dates on student visas, which would likely limit international student programs and post-graduation opportunities, according to a DHE press release.
The rule would restrict students’ visa duration in the U.S. to a fixed time period, which cannot exceed four years, according to a DHS press release from Sept. 24. Immigrants from countries associated with “high visa overstay rates” would be subject to a two-year stay period.
Previously, immigrants on student and exchange visas could remain in the U.S. as long as they complied with their visa terms, according to the release. These terms generally lacked established points of time. If the rule is passed, students admitted under the current framework would have their stay extended to their program’s end date, but it could not exceed four years.
“The significant growth of (international study) visa programs has necessitated this proposed update to ensure the integrity of the U.S. immigration system, but this rule does not propose changes to the underlying requirements to qualify for these (visas),” the release said.
Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law, said in an email the changes could decrease the diversity of students coming to the U.S. to study and force schools to invest more resources in navigating these changes for their students.
“If enacted as is, the rule would constitute the most significant changes to the regulation of international students in 20 years,” Wadhia said.
Wadhia said the policy could pass in 2020, be rescinded before it is passed or be enacted in 2021.
The public can comment on the proposed policy until Oct. 26, and the rule has received over 21,900 comments at the time of publication. The policy could change based on the comments or be challenged by litigation, which could partly or fully gut the law, Wadhia said.
More than 60 countries including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Vietnam would be limited to a two-year term, according to a fact sheet from the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. Additional countries could be added to this list if warranted by U.S. national interests, according to the proposed policy.
Under the new rule, students who exceed their term of stay would have to apply for an extension of stay request, which Wadhia said would only be granted in compelling circumstances.
Margaret Luévano, interim director of International Student and Scholar Services, said Texas Global is aware of the proposed rule and understands the impact this rule would have on the international population at UT.
“International Student and Scholar Services will continue to monitor the progress of the rule and provide updates as they become available on the Stay Informed webpage,” Luévano said. “We will continue to support and advise students regarding their individual questions and circumstances.”
Trisha Lobo, a psychology freshman from India, said the proposed rule could cause difficulty for students applying to graduate school. Lobo said, like many international students, she planned to complete an optional practice training period after receiving her bachelor’s degree, which would allow her to complete internships and job training after graduation.
The proposed rule would require students to apply for an extension of stay in order to request optional practice training periods, according to the fact sheet.
“You need that time period to get internships and training within your field,” Lobo said. “Without it, it becomes very difficult to apply for jobs or graduate school.”
Lobo said DHS’s lack of explanation on navigating the changing rules is harsh and isolating.
“There’s these rules being put into place, but there’s no real clarification on how you can adjust to the rules,” Lobo said. “It gives off this kind of impression that, ‘Oh, that’s your problem.’”