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Expert: Proposed Student Visa Rule Sends "Chilling Message"

September 26, 2020 (2 min read)

Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, Sept. 25, 2020

"The Trump administration is set to publish a new proposed rule today that would set fixed terms of up to four years for student visas and establish procedures for international students to apply to extend their stay and continue studying in the United States. ... "This proposed rule is set to replace a proven, flexible policy that has served international students and exchange visitors for decades, with one that is both complicated and burdensome," Esther D. Brimmer, the executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said in a statement. "In a system that is already extremely complex, this rule would undoubtedly create a high degree of uncertainty for international students and exchange visitors. If finalized, this rule would also make it more difficult for international students and scholars to maintain their legal status in the United States and make it far more difficult for international educators to administer. Sadly, this proposal sends another message to immigrants, and in particular international students and exchange visitors, that their exceptional talent, work ethic, diverse perspectives, and economic contributions are not welcome in the United States." ... The National Foundation for American Policy, an immigration-focused think tank, argues in a draft analysis that DHS's mechanism for calculating visa overstay rates is flawed in that it is "not an actual overstay rate but only an upper-bound estimate of individuals who DHS could not positively identify as leaving the United States" and therefore should not be used as a basis for rule making for international students. ... Some experts argued that the proposed rule, if enacted, would set up roadblocks for hundreds of thousands of legitimate students and threaten the United States’ historical position as the top attractor of international talent. “It’s a totally unnecessary and a massive self-inflicted wound on the United States if it actually goes into effect, which one can reasonably hope it never does,” said Doug Rand, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists who worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House. ... Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell University, said the proposed rule may not be finalized before Jan. 20 and could be withdrawn if there is a change in presidential administration. "On the one hand, students and people advising international students and scholars in higher education should not panic -- these are not immediate changes," Yale-Loehr said. "On the other hand, if this rule does get finalized without any changes, it will be the biggest change in international student regulations in 20 years. Over all, the proposed rule sends a chilling message to prospective international students and makes the United States seem more unwelcoming -- and this is in line with other things that the administration has done in other areas of immigration." "