DHS Proposes Removal of Duration of Status for F, J, and I Non-Immigrants
In a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the federal register on September 25, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that they seek to remove the D/S designation for F, J, and I non-immigrants. Such a move will establish a fixed time period of admission for foreign students and exchange visitors, rather than the current practice of admitting such non-immigrants for the duration of their status (D/S). The current practice provides flexibility for such students and exchange visitors to extend their courses of study by working directly with their F or J sponsoring institutions, rather than applying for regular extensions or modifications to their stay with the USCIS.
If this proposed rule is published without significant modification, the DHS will begin striking references to D/S for all F, J, and I non-immigrants moving forward, will decrease the grace period provided for F non-immigrants from 60 to 30 days, and will provide limits on the number of times an F student can change educational levels, among other significant changes to the current policies and procedures. Further, the DHS will develop a new extension of status process for such F, J, and I non-immigrants, significantly increasing the burden on these visitors when their programs exceed the admit until date provided when entering on F, J, or I visas. As the term of such F and J visas is not to exceed 4 years and will be limited to 2 years for certain foreign nationals, such extensions will become increasingly common.
These developments are concerning and appear to be a part of a broader effort by the DHS to crack down on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors. In practice, this proposed rulemaking will complicate the extension of status process for such students and researchers, who often need to nimbly change the terms of their programs or extend their course of study based upon shifts in internal funding, personnel changes, and other factors outside of their control. It will also likely increase the amount of removal actions taken by ICE against students who violate the terms of their course of study/exchange program, which can often occur without the knowledge of the student/exchange visitor themselves.
Please see the following DHS announcement for further information regarding this proposed rulemaking and monitor our updates for additional guidance pertaining to this development. Comments on this proposed rule are due 10/26/2020 and this rulemaking is sure to cause an uproar among U.S. educational institutions, which rely on the current F and J visa programs to grow their international student populations. If published, these rules will be burdensome, hostile to such students, and will disadvantage U.S. institutions seeking to attract the best and brightest from across the world.