On September 25th, a proposed rule from DHS was published in the Federal Register. The proposed rule applies to F visas for international college and university students, J visas for foreign nationals participating in work or school exchange programs and I visas for foreign national journalists. DHS proposes to change the period of admission for these visa holders to a fixed duration, departing from the long standing practice of admitting those individuals for “duration of status.”
Currently, student and journalist visa holders are not considered unlawful in the U.S. until an immigration judge or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notifies them of a violation of their admission. With this change, they will be considered to be unlawfully present once they stay in the U.S. past their I-94 expiration date.
The proposed rule also includes a procedure for applying for an extension of status for these visa categories.
Ken Cuccinelli, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary said in a statement on September 24th that the proposed rule will align these visas with other temporary visa classifications that have fixed time limits and still give international students and journalists the chance to extend their stay or reapply for admission. “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 proposed rule calls for some additional restrictions for these visas. In particular, foreign nationals from countries who have a greater than 10% visa overstay rate, or from countries on the Department of State’s Sponsors of Terrorism List, will not be able to stay in the U.S. for more than two years.
Additional factors that may trigger a two-year period of authorized stay include 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 has proposed initially admitting most I 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 found in the proposed rule include decreasing an F nonimmigrant’s period to prepare for departure from 60 to 30 days; collecting routine biometrics from F, J and I nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay; establishing clear eligibility criteria for F nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay; and defining a foreign media organization consistent with U.S. Department of State and DHS policy.
DHS claims that “the significant growth of the F, J and I visa programs has necessitated this proposed update to ensure the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.”
The rule does not propose changes to the underlying requirements to qualify for these nonimmigrant classifications.
Comments are due on October 26, 2020.
The proposed regulation can be found here.
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