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Proposed Visa Changes Could Be ‘Burdensome’ For Penn State’s International Students

On September 25, the Department of Homeland Security proposed changes in the admission period structure for F, J, and I nonimmigrant visas. If approved, this decision could negatively affect many international students attending Penn State.

Currently, F-1 Visa holders, the category for the majority of international students at Penn State, are allowed to stay in the United States until they meet their program requirements or finish their program of study, with no specific expiration date.

With the new proposed regulation, F-1 visas would expire in exactly four years unless the student is a resident of a country with a visa overstay rate greater than 10% or resident of a country from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. In those cases, the visa will be valid for two years only.

This new regulation could affect Penn State students who need to take an extra year to finish their undergraduate degrees, Ph.D. students who might need up to six years to finish their programs of study, and international students from many Middle Eastern and African countries. 

If a student is not able to complete their degree during the time period stated in their visa, the student must provide compelling evidence to be eligible for an extension and pay a fee.

Accepted evidence includes compelling academic reasons, such as inability to take a class required for the major, documented medical illness or medical condition, or circumstances that are beyond the student’s control — such as natural disasters, or a national health crisis. It is not guaranteed that the extension request will be approved.

According to the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising at Penn State, if a student has a history of failing to make academic progress or other transgressions, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services could deny the extension.  The extensions might require biometric processing. There are three application service centers in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and York.

In a statement, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said that the reasons for the change revolve around national security and “preventing foreign adversaries from exploiting the country’s education environment; and properly enforcing and strengthening U.S. immigration laws.”

In response, the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising at Penn State is carefully analyzing the proposed rule during the 30-day comment period. DISSA also issued a note about the proposed regulation.

“DISSA is aware of proposed changes published on Friday, September 25, 2020, to change the period of admission and extension of stay rules regarding F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars as well as dependents,
a spokesperson said. “DISSA plans to submit comments to the Department of Homeland Security advocating against these changes which will be burdensome to students and scholars. Penn State is working with several higher education organizations in advocacy efforts.”

It is important to remember that this proposed rule is not a final decision and is still subject to change. 

This summer, the federal government attempted to change current policies and prevent international students from staying in the country while studying online. Following a large but brief legal battle, the policy was rescinded and remains unchanged.

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About the Author

Renata Daou

Renata is a junior majoring in International Politics and one of Onward State's contributors. She's from Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil and no, she doesn't live in the middle of the Amazon forest. She likes learning new languages, reading, writing, and talking about the one time she went bungee jumping.
Follow her on Twitter @renatadaou to see her rant in Portenglish or e-mail her at [email protected] for serious inquires.

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