The Trump administration has inched closer to replacing the more liberal ‘duration of stay’ tenure for an international student, with a rigid ‘maximum period of authorised stay’, which will clearly indicate when students must leave the US. International students will have the option of seeking extensions of the authorised tenure.
On June 3, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has submitted for review to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) its proposed rule titled – ‘Establishing a fixed time period of admission and extension of stay procedure for non-immigrant academic students, exchange visitors and representatives of foreign information media’.
A review by the OMB (whose head reports directly to the US President) is seen as one of the final steps in the rule making process. Post its review, the proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register and public comments invited, before it is implemented.
The current norms are more flexible. International students can stay in the US, as long as they are engaged in the activity for which the visa was issued, rather than being admitted until a specific departure date. In technical terms this is referred to as admission for ‘duration of status’.
For international students, say those studying for an academic course on an F-I visa, the time during which the student is engaged in study (which can include the entire phase from under-graduation to acquiring a Masters’ degree), plus any authorised practical training period and the time period of 60 days given to depart the US post the study and training is the ‘duration of status’.
A proposal to do away with the ‘duration of status’ norm, was first announced in the 2018 fall agenda of the Trump administration, which is a bi-annual action plan of the government. TOI had analysed this proposal in its edition of October 19, 2018.
The last bi-annual agenda, issued in fall 2019, reiterated this course of action. The main objective of introducing specific dates for authorised periods of stay, for international students, is ostensibly to bring clarity and reduce the overstay rate.
While the nitty-gritty will be known only when the proposal is published in the Federal Register, immigration attorneys view that the change is likely to impose an added financial burden for students who would need to apply for an extension, should they wish to go in for higher studies or optional practical training. Seeking an extension, would also be time consuming and could be a deterrence for international students, they add.
According to the latest ‘Overstay Report’ of the DHS, of the total number of 19.49 lakh international students (those from Mexico and Canada are not included in this statistic), who were scheduled to complete their studies during the 12-month period ended September 30, 2019, nearly 60,000 or 3.09% overstayed. As regards Indian students, of the 1.59 lakh expected to leave by this date, 5,304 or 3.32% overstayed. For its report, DHS takes considers F visa holders (those pursuing academic studies) and also vocational students and research scholars, holding M and J visas respectively.