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Trump proposes to limit visa validity for tens of thousands of foreigners

The Trump administration is proposing a new rule limiting student visas to two years for citizens of 59 countries, potentially complicating the path to obtaining a diploma at an American college for tens of thousands of international students. Vox.

Photo: Shutterstock

Student visas are currently valid as long as students are enrolled in their course of study. But the proposed rule, published by the Department of Homeland Security, would limit the duration to two years for certain immigrants, in line with the theory that it would make it easier to identify security threats and enforce the rules.

The rules apply to citizens of countries that are designated as sponsoring states of terrorism, and countries with a high percentage of people who come to the United States and overstay their visas.

After this two-year period, students will be required to apply for a visa extension. It is unclear if immigration officials can deny their request, even if the student is required to complete a traditional four-year undergraduate program or a six-year doctorate program. But if a student takes longer than usual to complete a course of study, they will be required to provide evidence of “compelling academic reasons,” a documented health condition, or other circumstances beyond the student's control, including a natural disaster or national health crisis.

The move has the potential to discourage international students from enrolling in American universities, which are already facing declining enrollment of international students, a critical source of talent and more. According to the think tank New American Economy, international students generate about $ 32 billion in annual income and support over 300 jobs.

It is not yet clear if the rule will take effect. The Trump administration has only a few months to finalize the rule until January 2021, when the new administration can take responsibility and turn down the proposal. But if President Trump wins a second term in November, time will be on his side.

The proposal will affect citizens and people born in countries included in the list of sponsors of terrorism, including Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea. The rule will apply to citizens of 55 more countries with more than 10 percent overdue visa statistics, including all but a few African countries. Several of these countries send large numbers of international students to the United States, including Vietnam, Nigeria and Nepal. More than 2018 Vietnamese, 2019 Nigerians, 24 Nepalese, and 000 Iranians were enrolled in US universities in the 13-000 academic year, according to a report by the Open Doors Institute for International Education.

According to DHS, the list of countries includes Afghanistan, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Congo Kinshasa, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rwanda, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen and Zambia

International students from unaffected countries studying at educational institutions that are not accredited or participating in the federal E-Verify Employment Eligibility Program will also be eligible for a two-year visa.

On the subject: Five essential skills that American education provides

Focus on African countries

Most people who overstay their US visa come from China, India, Brazil and Canada - none of them are affected by the proposed rule. Rather, it focuses primarily on students from African countries. The countries with the highest visa delinquency rates, with the exception of Syria and Nigeria, actually account for only a small fraction of the total annual number of overdue visas.

In fiscal 2019, among citizens of Burundi, for example, visa delinquency for students and exchange visitors was 44% - one of the highest rates in the world. But it accounted for only 127 of the more than 60 alleged overstay cases. For comparison, among Chinese citizens, the rate of late residence for these categories of visas is less than 000%, but since it is the country sending the most foreign students to the United States, it has more than 2 cases of late residence.

Trump has long sought to discriminate against immigrants from African countries. He has sought to keep Africans from what Trump called "shitty" countries from the US, while suggesting that the US should accept more immigrants from predominantly white countries such as Norway. And he has repeatedly sought to abolish the green card lottery - for many Africans, this is the only way to immigrate to the United States.

Last year, Trump also imposed restrictions on citizens of four African countries - Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania - seeking to immigrate to the United States on a permanent basis, as part of expanding his travel ban policies.

Trump has tried to limit the flow of foreign students before

This is also not the first time Trump has tried to discourage international students from enrolling.

In July, he attempted to expel international students who were enrolled in online programs from the country, even as many universities decided to suspend face-to-face classes in the fall to protect students, staff and other campus members amid the pandemic. After the universities filed numerous lawsuits challenging the policy, the administration backed down. But it has alarmed the students, who are now wondering twice about whether to stay in the US after graduation.

Trump has imposed restrictions on visa programs that give students the opportunity to stay in the U.S. for long periods of time, including the in-demand H-1B visa program for skilled workers. It is a pipeline for foreign talent, especially in the fields of computer science, engineering, education and medicine.

During the pandemic, Trump signed a proclamation temporarily blocking the entry of foreign workers coming to the United States on H-1B and other visas until the end of the year. According to a senior administration official, he is also pursuing program reforms that will make it difficult for entry-level workers who have just graduated from US universities to qualify.

More than 85 immigrants receive H-000B visas for skilled workers every year, including thousands of employees from tech giants such as Google and Amazon. Recipients are drawn through a lottery, but Trump is proposing instead to prioritize workers with the highest wages and raise the minimum wage requirements in the program.

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Trump has also tried to crack down on student visa fraud using methods that many advocates find questionable. The Immigration and Customs Service came under fire in November after announcing it was running a fake university designed to lure immigrants into scamming student visas - but students claimed they had been tricked. As a result, about 250 students at Farmington University in Farmington Hills, Michigan were arrested.

The University of Farmington was not a real academic institution: although ICE advertised the university as offering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses, it had no teachers, no curriculum, no classes, or other educational activities. Prosecutors said its main benefit was an F-1 visa pass.

But lawyers for the injured students say the operations are a provocation designed to trick ignorant foreign students into paying thousands of dollars to the university without being able to find out that their actions are illegal.

The Trump administration has also tried to make it easier for students to have their visas violated. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a memorandum in 2018 which meant that minor errors such as not submitting a change of address report or having to abandon a course could prevent students from applying for a new visa or barring them from re-entering the U.S. for up to 10 years. However, this memorandum was blocked in federal court before it went into effect.

Who will be affected by the new rules

Correspondent about the innovation Forbes spoke with Dan Berger, a partner at Curran, Berger & Kludt, an immigration law firm who specializes in international education issues.

Will the proposed regulation affect international students currently studying?

Yes. In general, the proposed rule moves from “duration of status,” a flexible concept that allows students to remain in the United States with “normal progress” in an academic program, to a new policy that artificially introduces a fixed graduation date. The proposed regulation has a complex transition pattern that students and their universities need to understand.

Current students may remain in the United States until the “program graduation date” listed on their I-20 form. However, a student leaving the United States will lose this transitional status and must comply with all parts of the new policy. He will have to submit additional applications to expand his program and obtain permission to work with additional costs, delays and uncertainty.

“Good academic reasons” are not clearly defined. Students can apply and, after a few months, find out they cannot stay, even if the school supports renewal.

How will the proposed rule affect a student applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or OPT STEM?

Additional hands-on training currently includes one application and one fee. For most students, the proposed rule would require two questionnaires, each with separate fees, status renewals, and a work card request. This increases the cost and the likelihood of delay.

The proposed rule allows students to apply for OPT 120 days prior to graduation (90 days now), which may help a little with delays. But this rule narrows the window for applying for OPT after graduation from 60 to 30 days. This gives students less flexibility in scheduling the start of an OPT depending on how their job search is progressing.

In addition, it is unclear whether employers hoping to hire international students will decide to wait until the OPT process is completed. American employers will lose a valuable, talented pool of international students if it becomes even more difficult to hire them.

On the positive side, there are two small changes to the proposed rule. Firstly, students will no longer need to apply for additional practical training within 30 days after the international student office recommends / submits the OPT. This will avoid some OPT rejections due to late feed. Second, the OPT will be extended until April 1 of next year if the H-1B petition is pending. The current “gap” extends OPT to October 1, but with the new H-1B lottery system, some H-1B petitions are not approved until October 1. The new "gap" will help avoid work stoppages between October and H-1B approval.

In general, despite these two small advantages, the proposed rule will make it harder for students to work after graduation and significantly complicate the work of those who want to hire them.

What will be the process for allowing a student to stay outside the allowed period?

The student will be required to apply for an extension of status on Form I-539. Last year, USCIS began requiring the collection of biometric data (digital photos and fingerprints), resulting in increased processing times. The processing time for messages at the California Service Center is 7,5 to 10 months for renewal / change of status by students with an F visa.

In terms of costs, DHS estimates that a student can pay more than $ 1000 for each renewal, depending on whether a lawyer is hired. Many schools view Form I-539 as a personal application and do not allow their international student advisors to assist as this may be considered illegal legal practice.

What are the chances that the proposed rule will take effect?

It is difficult to make predictions. I suspect DHS will opt out of extending the comment period and then issue a final ruling relatively quickly. This could mean that the regulation will come into force this year.

Most likely, a complaint will be immediately filed with the court, and the order may well be terminated by a judge. It is also possible that another administration will reverse the ruling next year.

The text of the proposed new rules can be find here.

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