September 24, 2020
WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security has announced a proposed rule to require a fixed period of stay for international students, exchange visitors and foreign information media representatives to encourage program compliance, reduce fraud and enhance national security.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Establishing a Fixed Time Period of Admission and an Extension of Stay Procedure for Nonimmigrant Academic Students, Exchange Visitors and Representatives of Foreign Information Media, proposes to remove the duration of status framework that currently allows aliens in F, J and I classifications to remain in the United States for as long as they maintain compliance with the terms of admission.
“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 Senior Official Performing the Duties of the 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 U.S. immigration laws.”
Under the proposed rule, F or J nonimmigrants would be admitted into the United States 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. Aliens 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.
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 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.
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, but this rule does not propose changes to the underlying requirements to qualify for these nonimmigrant classifications.