The Department of Homeland Security is proposing changes to visas for students, exchange visitors and foreign media. The new rule would require a “fixed period of stay,” a departure from the current policy that allows these types of visa holders to remain in the US for “as long as they maintain compliance with the terms of admission.”
The proposed rule comes months after the administration announced, then rescinded, restrictions that would have forced international students to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switched to online-only courses.
Facing legal challenges and widespread criticism, officials walked back that proposal. Now, that rule applies only to new students rather than to students already in the US.
About 1.1 million foreign students were in the United States during the 2018-2019 academic year.
Under the proposed change, students and others would be admitted into the US up to the end date of their program, not to exceed four years.
People from countries with higher visa overstay rates would be issued visas for a maximum of two years before they would have to apply for an extension. That could affect students from more than 40 countries, according to a CNN analysis of DHS data.
The department is also proposing a decrease in the amount of time students will have to prepare for departure from 60 to 30 days, as well as adding biometric data collection requirements.
The proposed change will be published in the Federal Register Friday. A public comment period will follow and the final rule could be changed as a result.
DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said the changes will improve program oversight and prevent foreign adversaries from “exploiting the country’s education environment.”
Brad Farnsworth, vice president for global engagement at the American Council on Education, said his organization plans to issue a detailed response but is still reviewing the proposed changes, which were outlined in a 256-page document.
Farnsworth, whose organization represents about 1,800 colleges and universities, said he’s concerned about the proposal.
“This will be a deterrent for international students. … The immediate impact is going to be additional confusion and additional anxiety,” he said.
“The question I think everyone’s asking, as other countries are making it easier to study, why is the United States making it harder?”