Foreign Students Face Difficulty Remaining in the United States

by Frederik Stefani – November 26, 2018

Migration Resource Center was invited to provide a presentation to students at Iona College for their Week of the Peacemaker activities [Nov 4-9, 2018]. Iona College, like so many others around the country, has a vibrant international student body. It was interesting to see students participating in these activities. They covered such topics as embracing new technology for organizations or consequences of cannabis in the light of Canadian government legalizing it.

However, a major concern was the current administration’s new visa regulations, issued August of 2018. Many foreign students are very concerned about maintaining their student visa status. The new rules affect the ongoing ability of students, exchange visitors, and vocational students and their families to stay in the US. It is estimated that more than 1.2 million foreign nationals are affected by this policy.

If Iona students are representative, the foreign student community feels uncertain and insecure, for themselves and their families. The new rules further restrict international students in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The July 2018 memorandum expands the USCIS Notice to Appear policy. This affects international students applying for changes of status, extensions of stay, and other ancillary applications.

These harsh USCIS policies against the students have alarmed many colleges and universities around the country. Because of this policy, a large number of international students have left school. When the government fails to decide on submitted applications promptly, the students are faced with two bad choices. They either leave the country or risk unlawful presence due to a lapse in their status. The USCIS has recently considered furnishing official expiration dates to international students and exchange visitor visa holders. However, USCIS has not yet done this.

The New School in New York City and Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and others, have sued the administration regarding the issuance of this new regulation. It affects the status of international students and their ability to maintain a lawful presence in the United States. Universities claim that the policy is intentionally designed to bar re-entry to tens of thousands of students, exchange visitors, and vocational visa holders and their dependents each year. International students and exchange visitors, acting in good faith, could face devastating three- or ten-year bars.

The universities claim that USCIS did not follow the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. They further argue that re-entry bars are imposed for minor or unintentional infractions. It will also interrupt and interfere with the universities’ ability to attract foreign talent and maintain their tuition and costs.

The universities note that recruiting top international students, researchers and academics to the United States is “crucial to ensuring that the United States retains its perch as the leader of the academic world.” In the complaint, the institutions note that more than 30 percent of the total student body of The New School, for instance, is comprised of international students. The schools also noted that from 2016 to 2017, international students contributed nearly $37 billion to the U.S. economy and created or supported more than 450,000 jobs.


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