International college students could face new restrictions in US

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A new restriction from the Trump administration is expected to be published this month. What are the implications for prospective foreign college students?

The Trump administration is expected to publish a new restriction this month that will require students to seek new approval at each stage of academic life in the United States.

This guidance, initially reported by Forbes, would limit international college and university students’ stay in the U.S.

What is the new rule? Who will this new rule affect? 

The new guideline establishes a “maximum period of authorized stay” for students and requires students to gain new permission every time there is a transition in their plans. If a college or university student’s academic career takes longer than expected, they might have to undergo the same process as those who are going from undergraduate degree to graduate degree programs.

This rule is expected to affect student visas F1, F2, M1 and M2 with a February 2020 target date.

What is the government’s reasoning behind this proposed rule?

A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) referred to the rule’s Statement of Need, which reads:

“This rule is intended to decrease the incidence of nonimmigrant student overstays and improve the integrity of the nonimmigrant student visa.”

Where are international students coming from? 

China and India send nearly half of all international students to the U.S. Afterall, the U.S. is an incredibly popular higher education destination for many foreign students.

What is the difference between F1 and M1?

Both are student visas but…

The F1 is for those attending an academic program or seeking a full-time degree at an institution approved by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS) in agreement with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). F2 visa holders are dependents of F1 visa holders.

The M1 is for those enrolled in vocational studies such as language programs, cosmetology schools, mechanical studies, and other programs. According to USCIS, the M1 visa and its dependent (M2 visa) is valid for only one year, but students can choose to apply for extensions for up to three years.

Will students have to go back to their country and go through the visa process all over again if they want to return to the U.S.? 

“At this point, we do not know what the final rule will include,” according to the DHS spokesperson.

What is the current regulation?

Nonimmigrant students can remain in the U.S. for the duration of status. As long as they are enrolled in a program of study and maintain their nonimmigrant status, they can remain in the U.S.

How many people hold student visas in the U.S.? 

The DHS has not released numbers for 2019 and 2020, but it is estimated that more international students come to the U.S. from around the world for higher education than for any other purpose. However, for the second year after decades of growth, measurements show stagnation and steep declines.

The annual Open Doors report, compiled by the Institute for International Education with the U.S. State Department and released in November 2019—for the 2018-2019—showed enrollment 1,095,299 international students among 19,828,000 total college and university students in institutions of higher education in the U.S.

According to those numbers, international students compose 5.5% of all college and university students in the U.S. These numbers showed a slight increase in total international enrollment, 0.05% from the previous year, but a decrease in new international student enrollment, -0.9%.

Are there any anticipated costs?

The rule shows that Immigration Customs and Enforcement is in a process of assessing the costs and benefits that would be incurred by regulated entities and individuals, as well as the costs and benefits to the public at large.

The Forbes article was skeptical of how the U.S. government would handle more applications from those who already have a visa. According to research by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), USCIS is adjudicating cases at an unacceptably and increasingly slow pace.

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