US mulls fixed period F, J, I visas

Photograph of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security .

Move to hit foreign students, exchange visitors and information media representatives.

The Trump administration is proposing new curbs on international students, exchange visitors and foreign information media representatives in the name of reducing fraud and enhancing national security.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced a proposed rule to require a fixed period of stay for foreigners with F, J and I visas instead of the current duration of status framework.

This allows academic students (F), exchange visitors (J) and representatives of foreign information media (I) to remain in the US for as long as they maintain compliance with the terms of admission.

The proposed rule was intended “to encourage program compliance, reduce fraud and enhance national security,” DHS said in a media release.

“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,” said acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.

“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 US immigration laws.”

READ MORE: More than 1.3 million foreign nationals came to US on F-1 visa in 2014 and 2015 (April 26, 2016)

Under the proposed rule, F or J nonimmigrants would be admitted into the US for a period up to the end date of their program, not to exceed four years, unless DHS determines that the nonimmigrant is subject to a shorter period of authorized stay limited to two years.

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

Additional factors that may trigger a two-year period of authorized 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 nonimmigrants, whether a school is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education.

Lawfully present F or J nonimmigrants who were admitted for duration of status will automatically have their stay extended up to the program end date, not to exceed four years, once the final rule is effective, DHS said.

DHS has proposed initially admitting most I category nonimmigrants 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.

Other updates in the proposed rule include decreasing an F nonimmigrant’s period to prepare for departure from 60 to 30 days and establishing clear eligibility criteria for F nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay.

It also includes “defining a foreign media organization consistent with US Department of State and DHS policy.”

The new rule also requires collecting routine biometrics from F, J and I nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay.

“The significant growth of the F, J and I visa programs has necessitated this proposed update to ensure the integrity of the US immigration system,” DHS said.

“But this rule does not propose changes to the underlying requirements to qualify for these nonimmigrant classifications,” it said.

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