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DHS proposing time limits on international students, exchange visitors

DHS proposing time limits on international students, exchange visitors
© Greg Nash

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday proposed fixed time limits for international students, exchange visitors and foreign information media representatives to combat overstays.

The federal agency announced its plans to mandate fixed time periods for certain visitors, citing goals to “encourage program compliance, reduce fraud and enhance national security.” The move would change current policy that allows these visitors to stay as long as they follow the “terms of admission.”

DHS noted there has been “significant growth” in all three non-immigration programs, and the proposal would “ensure the integrity of the U.S. immigration system."

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Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli called the changes “critical” in a statement. 

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added. 

The proposal would permit international students and exchange visitors to stay in the U.S. until the end of their program, which will not last longer than four years. 

The policy includes a caveat that DHS could shorten the period to two years, which will apply to visitors from countries with overstay rates higher than 10 percent. 

The two-year limit could apply to visitors from countries on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, visitors coming for a school or program that is not an E-Verify participant in good standing and visitors attending a school that’s not recognized by the Secretary of Education. 

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For foreign information media representatives, DHS is suggesting a time limit “necessary to complete the planned activities or assignments” not exceeding 240 days. They will have a chance to extend their stay by a maximum of 240 additional days. 

The DHS proposal would also shorten intentional students' period to prepare for departure to 30 days and allow the agency to gather “routine biometrics” from all three types of nonimmigrants seeking a stay. 

The changes would create “clear eligibility criteria” for international students seeking to extend their stay and define a foreign media organization “consistent with U.S. Department of State and DHS policy.”