In response to a proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security, which would limit foreign students’ visas to a four-year or two-year term, UT International Student and Scholar Services expanded the window from six months to one year to request potential visa extensions Oct. 21.
On Sept. 25, the DHS proposed a rule to eliminate the duration of status for F and J visa holders, which are specific to international students and scholars. The rule has still not gone into effect.
Under this rule, all foreign students would be limited to a four-year visa and students from select countries would be limited to a two-year visa. If needed, students first need to request a visa extension through their international office.
The process of getting the extension approved in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can take several months, and students’ visas may expire before the extension is approved, said Margaret Luévano, interim director of UT International Student and Scholar Services, in an email. UT reported in fall 2018 that 10% of the enrolled student population was international, or not holding citizenship or permanent residency.
“In an effort to reduce any hurdles should the proposed D/S rule (go) into effect, ISSS recently made a slight change to the extension policy for students who need an extension to complete their studies,” Luévano said.
Before, international students could only request a visa extension six months before their visa expired. With the new rule, students can request a visa extension one year before the visa’s expiration.
Luévano said international advisors can provide extensions if a student provides evidence that the extension is academically necessary.
Huy Le, a nursing sophomore from Vietnam, said UT’s expanded timeline will help students have a little more time to plan out how they will renew their visa.
“Some of the countries specifically listed in the proposal (that are limited to two-year visas) might be negatively impacted by the stereotype that all (international students) are here to stay, not because we are here for education purposes,” Le said.
Students can apply for an extension through the USCIS, or they may have to apply for a visa extension in their home country, depending on which country they are from.
Le, as a citizen of Vietnam, a country selected for only two-year student visas, said he would need to go back to his home country to renew his visa.
The proposed restriction is based on the overstay of the student visas in general and targets specific countries with a two-year visa limitation if their current overstay rate is over 10% according to the DHS.
“I don’t think UT is doing enough at all, but I don’t blame them, what else can they do? They’re not the government and they can’t force the government to help us,” said Vira Wiguna, an accounting sophomore from Indonesia. “It's already so hard to get into university anyway, and then you tell them all these rules, like you can only stay here for two years, or we can’t give you an extension.”