A new restriction from the Trump administration expected to be published this month will require students to seek new approval at each stage of their academic life in the United States.
The guidance, first reported by Forbes, would limit international students' stay in the U.S.
What is the new rule and who will it 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 student's academic career takes longer than expected, they would also undergo the same process as those who are going from undergraduate to graduate programs.
The rule is expected to affect student visas F1, F2, M1 and M2 with a February 2020 target publishing date.
What is the government's reasoning behind the proposed rule?
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson told VOA to refer 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, 363,341 and 196,271, respectively, to the U.S.
What is the difference between F1 and M1?
Both visas are for students. But F1 is for those attending an academic program or seeking a full-time degree at an institution approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in agreement with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). F2 visa holders are dependents of F1 visa holders.
M1 visa is for those enrolled in vocational studies such as language programs, cosmetology schools, and mechanical studies, among others. According to USCIS, the M1 visa and its dependent (M2 visa) is valid for only one year, but students can 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 come back 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?
Currently, nonimmigrant students can remain in the U.S. for duration of status. That means 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.?
Though DHS has not released numbers for 2019 and 2020, VOA Student U reported that more international students come to the U.S. from around the world for higher education than any other purpose. However, for the second year after decades of growth, those metrics show stagnation and steep declines from some countries.
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 school year — showed enrollment of 1,095,299 international students among 19,828,000 total students in institutions of higher education in the U.S.
That makes international students 5.5% of all college and university students in the U.S. The 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%.
Any anticipated costs?
The rule shows that Immigration Customs and Enforcement is "in the 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."
But 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."