US Announces Rule Establishing Fixed Period of Stay for International Students

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The United States has announced a proposed rule establishing a fixed period of stay for international students, exchange visitors and foreign information media representatives to encourage programme compliance, reduce fraud and enhance national security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) disclosed this in a statement dated September 24th, posted on its website.

It said the notice of proposed rulemaking, establishing a fixed time period of admission and an extension of stay procedure for non-immigrant academic students, exchange visitors and representatives of foreign information media, proposes to remove the duration of status framework that currently allows aliens in F, J and I visa classifications to remain in the US for as long as they maintain compliance with the terms of admission.

The DHS explained that the significant growth of the F, J and I visa programmes necessitated the proposed update to ensure the integrity of the U.S. immigration system, but added that this rule does not propose changes to the underlying requirements to qualify for these non-immigrant classifications.

The statement quoted Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, to have said that “this effort would create a fixed time period of admission for certain aliens, consistent with most other temporary visa classifications, while still allowing these aliens an opportunity to legally extend their stay or re-apply for admission where appropriate.

“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.”

The DHS said that under the proposed rule, F or J non-immigrants would be admitted into the United States for a period up to the end date of their program, not to exceed four years, unless DHS determines that the non-immigrant is subject to a shorter period of authorised stay limited to two years.

It stressed that citizens from countries associated with high visa overstay rates (rates greater than 10% for student and exchange visitors) would be limited to up to a two-year fixed period of stay to increase monitoring, deter immigration violations and incentivize timely departure.

Techloy’s latest infographic into the data from the DHS revealed that 29,723 Nigerians overstayed their business or pleasure visas (B1/B2) in 2018, making it the 5th country with the most visa overstays in the United States for the visa category, and the only African country on the top 20 list of the most US nonimmigrant visa overstays.

Canada came first in the list of countries with the most overstayed visa in the US with 88,115 Canadians; followed by Mexico with 43,130, followed by Brazil with 36,289 Brazilians and Venezuela came fourth with 35,931 Venezuelans.

The DHS explained further that additional factors that may trigger a two-year period of authorised stay include an alien’s birth or citizenship from a country on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list; whether a school or program sponsor is an E-Verify participant in good standing; and, for F non-immigrants, whether a school is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education.

It added that lawfully present F or J non-immigrants who were admitted for duration of status would automatically have their stay extended up to the program end date, not to exceed four years, once the final rule is effective.

DHS has proposed initially admitting most I non-immigrants for a period of time necessary to complete the planned activities or assignments consistent with the I classification, not to exceed 240 days, with an opportunity to extend their stay for a maximum of 240 days based on the length of relevant activities.

It stressed that other updates found in the proposed rule include decreasing an F non-immigrant’s period to prepare for departure from 60 to 30 days; collecting routine biometrics from F, J and I non-immigrants seeking an extension of stay; establishing clear eligibility criteria for F non-immigrants seeking an extension of stay; and defining a foreign media organisation consistent with U.S. Department of State and DHS policy.