VisasForeign Students Look Forward to Visa Stability

By Madeline Joung

Published 10 November 2020

International students in the U.S. whose studies and immigration status have undergone changes during President Donald Trump’s administration say they hope their stays will stabilize with President-elect Joe Biden.

International students in the U.S. whose studies and immigration status have undergone changes during President Donald Trump’s administration say they hope their stays will stabilize with President-elect Joe Biden.

“I do believe that … international students would feel more secure here in the U.S. while pursuing their degrees,” said Ukrainian Roman Ivasiy, a student at Georgia State University. “Especially during the COVID crisis, when most of the programs switched to the online format.”

The COVID pandemic has shut down college and university campuses across the U.S. since March, leaving foreign students in limbo and in jeopardy of losing their student visa status.

“I’m hopeful that travel would be more convenient, with less hurdles to jump over, a more streamlined process that does not discourage visa application especially after graduation,” said Jehan Ayesha-Wirasto from Malaysia.

The Trump administration threatened to limit the Optional Practical Training, or OPT program, that allowed foreign students an extended visa to stay in the United States for up to three years after graduation. It is popular among science, technology, engineering and math students who want to remain in the U.S. after OPT on H-1B work visas.

“Following the U.S. elections has been extremely stressful,” said Mariana C., a Brazilian international student at Cornell University, who said she feared retaliation for revealing her full name. “It’s really disheartening not to be able to participate in a decision that will inevitably affect me as someone who spends most of the year in the U.S.”

International students faced multiple student visa rule changes this year under the Trump administration, which left millions uncertain if they could continue their studies without interruption.

In September, the Homeland Security Department proposed a new rule limiting F or J student visas to a fixed four-year term, despite many study programs lasting longer than that.

The rule would limit student visas to a fixed two-year term if students were from a country with a visa overstay rate above 10% or on a U.S. State Department’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list.

In August, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a rule that would compel international students enrolled in online-only courses at U.S. universities and colleges to be on campus during a pandemic or risk deportation. The rule was rescinded a week later after facing sharp backlash from universities and students.

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