The Biden administration has withdrawn a highly unpopular proposed rule for international students that would have set student visas to shorter fixed terms.
The proposal would have required international students to apply for visa extensions to complete their studies. Public comments about the proposed rule, published late last year, complained that the cost of application fees and related requirements would burden foreign students and scholars.
Also, if students had been from a country with a visa overstay rate above 10% or a country on the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, they would have been limited to a fixed two-year term for student visas, meaning that they would have to reapply within that time period, doubling their paperwork.
“We are withdrawing the NPRM [notice of proposed rulemaking] and will analyze the entirety of the NPRM … to determine what changes may be appropriate and consistent with Department of Homeland Security’s needs, policies and applicable law,” the Biden administration stated Tuesday in the U.S. Federal Register, a daily journal of the U.S. government that publishes federal regulations, proposed rules, executive orders, proclamations and other federal documents.
When the Trump administration proposed the rule in September 2020, the Department of Homeland Security, which administers visas after the U.S. Department of State issues them, received 32,000 public comments opposing the rule.
Sofia Elkin Becerra, a Costa Rican senior at the University of Maryland and president of the university’s International Student Union, told VOA in October 2020 that the rule was "pretty unclear" and said that "even the international student advisers don't have all the answers for students in my situation. So, I’m left uncertain of if or how it will even affect me.”
Less than 1% of public commenters expressed support for the proposed rule, with many of them saying they believed it would deter illegal immigration, protect U.S. workers and stop espionage, according to the Federal Register.
Others said the proposed rule would discriminate against some nationalities and “significantly burden the foreign students, exchange scholars, foreign media representatives and U.S. employers by requiring extension of stays in order to continue with their programs of study or work,” the Federal Register stated.
International students typically study for four years to earn an undergraduate degree, and many students and graduates pursue additional studies or training, such as the Optional Practical Training extension to the student F-1 visa, to acquire hands-on working experience in their fields.
The proposed changes also would have burdened U.S. employers, commenters said. If extension applicants had not applied or received approval in a timely fashion, it could have delayed their start dates for work or caused them to breach agreements with employers.