Why proposed visa rule is causing concern in higher ed

Department of Homeland Security rule could eliminate "duration of status" policy for student visas
By: | October 23, 2020
(GettyImages/martin-dm)(GettyImages/martin-dm)

A proposed Department of Homeland Security rule is raising concerns among higher ed leaders who fear the end of a policy that now allows international students to remain in the U.S. for the duration of their studies.

Public comments are due Monday on the rule—Establishing a Fixed Time Period of Admission and an Extension of Stay Procedure for Nonimmigrant Academic Students, Exchange Visitors, and Representatives of Foreign Information Media—that could eliminate “duration of status” for internationals with student F visas.

The rule, framed as a measure to tighten national security, would also set a two-year limit for students from 60 countries—most of which are in Asia and Africa—with visa overstay rates greater than 10%.

The limit would also apply to students either born in or holding citizenship of a country on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.


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“This rule threatens to undermine the United States’ role as a world leader in education and stigmatizes tens of thousands of students based on their country of birth,” said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council. “New costs and bureaucratic barriers will make it more difficult for students and exchange visitors to complete their courses of study in the United States—uncertainty that will inevitably drive talented students from around the world to pursue their studies in other countries.”

Time limits could impact the ability of international students to earn their degrees, the Council points out.

As many in higher ed know, most first-time college students take more than five years to earn a degree, and doctoral programs can take more than four years. A typical mathematics Ph.D., for example, takes five to six years to complete.

The Council also notes that Before the COVID-19 pandemic, international student enrollment had fallen by 10% since 2015. The new rule could accelerate that decline.

Science and higher education leaders, including the American Institute of Physics and 36 other associations, have opposed the rule.

“This proposal gravely threatens America’s long-standing role as the world’s leader in training the next generation of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers,” said Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University and the co-founder of the World Science Festival. “Graduate training requires years of dedicated study and research which cannot be carried out effectively under the cloud of government scrutiny and the prospect of deportation.”


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