In the most recent attack on immigration by this administration, ICE has proposed a new rule that will change the period of admission for F, J, and I visa holders to a fixed duration, departing from the long standing practice of admitting those individuals for “duration of status.” The proposed rule will also include a procedure for applying for an extension of status for those categories. Additionally, foreign nationals from countries who have a greater than 10% visa overstay rate, or from countries on the Department of State’s Sponsors of Terrorism List, cannot stay in the U.S. for more than 2 years. The rule is set to be published later this afternoon (09/25) and comments will be due by October 26, 2020. We can expect more draconian attacks on immigration in the days and weeks leading up to the election.
Copied from Law360:
DHS Proposes Fixed Time Limits On Student, Journalist Visas
Law360 (September 24, 2020, 3:22 PM EDT) — The U.S Department of Homeland Security proposed a new rule Thursday that would place fixed time limits on student and journalist visas, saying it’s concerned about the current visa programs being abused and jeopardizing national security.
DHS said changing student and journalist visas to have fixed time limits would require international students and journalists to apply for extensions to stay past their initial admission periods and make it easier for the agency to determine when their visas have expired.
Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary of homeland security, said in a statement that the proposed rule will align student and journalist visas with other temporary visa classifications that have fixed time limits and still give international students and journalists the chance to extend their stay or reapply for admission.
“Amending the relevant regulations is critical in improving program oversight mechanisms; preventing foreign adversaries from exploiting the country’s education environment; and properly enforcing and strengthening U.S. immigration laws,” Cuccinelli said.
The proposed rule would apply to F visas for international college and university students, J visas for foreign nationals participating in work or school exchange programs and I visas for foreign national journalists. These visas are currently issued for a period of time called duration of status rather than a fixed time period that is valid for the amount of time it takes to finish an authorized activity, such as completing college studies, according to DHS.
Currently, student and journalist visa holders are not considered unlawful in the U.S. until an immigration judge or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notify them of a violation of their admission.
According to DHS, student and journalist visa holders are able to unlawfully stay in the U.S. because they do not have file applications or petitions to extend their stay in the country.
Since the federal government switched to duration of status authorization for F, J and I visas in 1987, U.S. admissions on these visas have risen from 263,938 admissions to more than a million admissions in 2019, according to the DHS. The increased admissions make it difficult for DHS to track these visa holders, the agency said.
Under the proposed rule, foreign nationals from countries on the U.S. Department of State‘s Sponsors of Terrorism List or that have a citizen overstay rate of more than 10%, or who are attending unaccredited schools or schools that don’t use E-Verify, can’t stay in the U.S. for more than two years on student visas.
Therefore, international students from more than 50 countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and North Korea would be prohibited from coming to the U.S. on F or J visas for more than two years, preventing them from completing four-year degrees, according to the proposed rule.
The proposed rule would also make it difficult for F visa holders to extend their stay in the U.S. for longer than four years to complete an educational degree and would reduce their time to prepare for departure from 60 days to 30 days.
International journalists coming to the U.S. on assignment would be limited to staying in the U.S. for at most 240 days unless they apply for a visa extension that is approved, according to the proposal.
All student and journalist visa holders who seek to extend their stay would be subject to routine collection of biometrics, such as fingerprints, and have to pay an $85 fee for the collection process, according to the proposed rule.
The Trump administration has proposed changes to student visas in the past without success. In 2018, USCIS said it would change how it calculated unlawful presence of foreign nationals in the U.S. on F, J and M visas, but a D.C. federal judge declared the rule invalid, saying the government flouted federal law in its rulemaking.
Earlier this year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tried to ban international students from staying in the country if their colleges and universities switched to virtual classes during the pandemic. ICE dropped the policy in July after universities across the country, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, filed lawsuits challenging the rule.
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