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No Fixed Time Visa Rules for International Students in the US

No Fixed Time Visa Rules for International Students in the US

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International students looking to travel to the United States for education and those currently enrolled in U.S. universities have reasons to cheer.

They will now be allowed to remain within the country as long as they’re occupied with their studies. The Biden administration has formally done away with a regulation suggested by the previous Trump government, in which the duration of visas for international students was limited to four years. Now, the rule that sought to create a fixed time period of admission for non-immigrant academic students has been rolled back.

On Sept. 25, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking called “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.” The proposal was aimed at replacing a flexible “Duration of Status” admission period for F, J, and certain I non-immigrants with a fixed time period.

“Duration of Status” refers to the period in which a student completes a full course of study, along with any authorized practical training.

Non-immigrants looking to stay within the country over and beyond the fixed permitted time were earlier required to apply for an extension of stay directly with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The other option was to depart the country and apply for admission with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at a port of entry.

The formal notice withdrawing the September 2020 proposed rule was published recently by the Federal Register.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration had issued orders to the secretary of homeland security to ascertain the hurdles that stop access to immigration benefits.

During the subsequent 30-day comment period, the DHS received more than 32,000 comments with more than 99 percent opposed to the earlier proposed rule. Those against the rule of fixed stay argued that it discriminates against certain people based on their nationality.

In addition, it was feared that the rule might 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, as per the Federal Register.

It would also lead to financial losses for students and scholars as they would not have been able to start work on time if they did not get visa extension. This, in turn, would put pressure on U.S. employers who would be looking to hire non-immigrants or non-citizens. The withdrawal of the earlier proposal of fixed stay comes as a welcome move for international students, especially Indians, who are among the largest international student groups in the United States with more than 200,000 students, as per latest data.

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