President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed a new Department of Homeland Security policy to put a four-year fixed term on international student visas. The new proposal, if adopted, is the latest roadblock for international students and comes nearly four months after they were almost blocked from entering the United States if their classes were online.
Under the new proposal, a renewal process would be required for visas if individuals need to stay in the U.S. longer than four years. The current policy allows students to continue studying in the U.S. even if their visa expires as long as they are enrolled in school and abide by the terms of their immigration status. Only new international students applying for visas will be subjected to these changes if the policy is enacted.
U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., both oppose the new proposal. On Tuesday, the two spearheaded an open letter to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that has been signed by 104 of their congressional colleagues.
“We must ensure the United States welcomes and fosters international students who are vital to our economy and continue to provide meaningful contributions to research, culture, academic life, and our country,” the letter reads. “These proposed changes, if enacted, would place at risk the academic careers of the over 1 million international students who attend U.S. institutes of higher education each year.”
Under the proposal, countries with higher visa overstay rates would only be issued visas for a two-year term, a provision that applies to more than 40 countries, according to data from the DHS. This list largely affects students from African countries and some parts of Asia.
The University of Michigan’s International Center also put out a statement about the proposed changes, noting the policy’s harmful effects on international students.
“We are very disappointed in these proposed changes,” the International Center statement reads. “We feel very strongly that these proposed changes would significantly and detrimentally impact international students and scholars and do not align with the unique educational needs of students and scholars in academic institutions.”
Scott Manley, assistant director for International Student and Scholar Services, told The Daily the financial implications of this new policy would drastically impact international students, making the visa renewal process longer and more difficult for both students and the University.
“It's going to cost them more money to have to stay here,” Manley said. “The current process is that (international students) just request an extension through the International Center and we have the ability to grant them the extension. If this proposal goes through, they’re going to have to pay the government.”
Dingell and Pocan’s letter says that international students are a vital part of the nation’s academic and campus life.
“Their contributions are critical to maintaining the United States’ leadership in STEM fields and cutting-edge technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence,” the letter reads. “These rules would also threaten the hundreds of thousands of jobs supported by international students, as well as the tens of billions of dollars in economic activity that these students facilitate each year.”
Engineering junior Tony Pan, who is an international student from China, said the policy is another obstacle for international students looking to get an education in the U.S.
“There’s no Google without Sergey Brin, who’s an immigrant, and there’s no Tesla without Elon Musk, who’s from South Africa,” Pan said. “This (proposal) deters students from a U.S. education because it takes away valuable parts of getting working experience as a part of the education.”
Daily Staff Reporters Jasmin Lee and Iulia Dobrin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.