United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement proposed a rule on Sept. 25 that would require international students to reapply for a student visa every four years.
The new proposed visa regulations would establish a fixed period for international students, replacing the current duration of status policy, according to ICE. Duration of status allows international students legal stay in the U.S. for the entire time they are pursuing “a full course of study.”
ICE introduced the new proposal over concerns surrounding the integrity of VISA programs and national security, it said in a statement.
Kaiyue Zhou, a Wayne State University international computer science doctoral candidate, said "most students are harmless, as we all know, to the security.”
Many international students tend to take longer than four years to complete their baccalaureate program or decide to continue their education in the U.S. by pursuing a Ph.D. program, according to Inside Higher Ed. The ICE proposal would require most students to reapply for their visa mid-program and puts them at risk of not completing their degree if rejected.
“I think it’s unnecessary and totally wasting everyone’s time and energy to apply for that every [four] years,” Zhou said.
The proposal has not become law yet and does not have an effective date, said Carol Baldwin, WSU Educational Outreach and International Programs communications coordinator. There was a 30-day comment period for the proposal that ended on Oct. 26 and the proposal will now proceed through normal public notice and comment procedures before, and if, any final rule is published.
WSU released a statement on Oct. 5, strongly opposing ICE’s new visa regulations.
“Beyond the negative impact this policy change would have on international students, it creates yet another unnecessary barrier that would limit our institution’s and the country’s ability to attract and retain talent and maintain our competitive position in the world,” WSU said in the statement.
International students contributed $45 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“U.S. universities, and by extension the country’s economy, will be in trouble,” said Qin Yan, a second-year materials science and engineering masters student at WSU. “That's why U.S. colleges and universities need to help international students.”
While the Trump administration in July rescinded a policy directive that would have required all international students to take at least one in-person course during the fall semester to remain in the U.S., the policy still applies to new students on F-1 visa status, Baldwin said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, all international students were only allowed to take one online course in the fall and winter semesters, Baldwin said.
WSU stopping in-person classes because of new statewide COVID-19 restrictions does not affect F-1 students, with many students having already met the requirement, Baldwin said.
“Departments were informed about this new requirement as soon as the proclamation came out and students were able to work with their academic advisers to secure at least one in-person class without any issues,” Baldwin said. “Students have met that requirement by registering for and attending the in-person class at some point since the semester began.”
WSU has been working with international students to address ICE policy changes, Yan said.
“Wayne State has a good reputation not only in Michigan, but also in the U.S.,” Yan said. He chose to attend WSU because of the university’s “strong industrial atmosphere” in Midtown Detroit and the scholarship offered to him.
Yan said he struggled with learning English and cultural differences, but WSU’s programs have been helpful.
“WSU has a very good study partner program for international students, which is matching international students with native students,” Yan said. “International students involved in this program always benefit a lot.”
WSU, along with many other universities, saw a decrease in international student enrollment this fall. New international student enrollment is down 20%, according to WSU’s fall 2020 enrollment update. There was an undergraduate decrease of 93 students and a graduate decrease of 249 students.
The Student Exchange Visitor Program did not release any additional guidance for the three-week pause, Baldwin said. Current visa regulations for fall 2020 will continue for winter 2021 without any changes and WSU is waiting for further guidance for spring/summer and beyond from SEVP.
Minnah Arshad is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo by Quinn Banks, The South End's multimedia editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.