Graduate students, U. react to proposed DHS rule limiting student visas

Published: 10/15/2020

Source: The Daily Princetonian

On Sept. 25, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule, which, if enacted, would set two- or four-year fixed term limits on international student visas and increase government supervision of applications for visa extensions. The announcement has drawn strong criticism from the University’s graduate student community.

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International students on F or J visas are admitted into the United States for “duration of status” (D/S) — a flexible period that allows students to stay in the United States as long as they are “pursuing a full course of study at an educational institution approved by DHS, or engaging in authorized practical training.”

If the proposed rule were to enter into effect, a graduate student’s D/S would expire within 60 days of their graduate program’s end date, not to exceed four years after the rule’s enactment. International students admitted thereafter would receive visas with fixed time limits. 

Neither DHS nor United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) responded to requests for comment.

Guanhua He, a fourth year GS from China completing a five-year program in Molecular Biology, called the limits “absolutely unreasonable. Basically not acceptable.”

While most student visas would default to the four year limit, the proposed rule specifies that students who are citizens of countries on the Department of State’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list or those that have a “student and exchange visitor total overstay rate of greater than 10 percent” would receive two year visas. The shorter timeframe would apply to 65 countries, primarily in the Middle East and Africa. 

While most undergraduate students at the University graduate in four years and would not be affected by the proposed rule, the two and four year limits are less than the median 5.7 years it takes to graduate from Princeton with a Ph.D.

Under D/S, students’ visa sponsor may extend their stay without filing a request with the government. The DHS’s proposition allows students to apply for an extension if they have “compelling medical or academic reasons,” among other extenuating circumstances. USCIS or Customs and Border Patrol would assess whether extension requests meet the stated criteria.

Source: The Daily Princetonian

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