Posted on September 26, 2020

Trump is Proposing to Limit Student Visas to Two Years for Citizens of 59 Countries

Nicole Narea, Vox, September 24, 2020

The Trump administration is proposing a new rule to limit student visas to two years for citizens of 59 countries {snip}

Student visas are currently valid for as long as students are enrolled in their course of study. But the proposed rule, published by the Department of Homeland Security, would limit the validity period to two years for certain immigrants under the theory that it will be easier to identify security threats and monitor compliance.

The countries targeted are those that are designated as state sponsors of terrorism and those with a high rate of people who come to the US and overstay their visas.

After that two-year period, students will have to apply for an extension. It’s not clear whether immigration officials could deny their request even if a student would need it to complete a traditional four-year undergraduate program or a PhD, which can take six years or longer. But if a student is taking longer than the typical time it takes to complete their course of study, they will have to provide evidence of “compelling academic reasons,” a documented medical condition, or other circumstances beyond the student’s control, including a natural disaster or national health crisis, according to the rule.


It’s not clear if the rule will go into effect. {snip}

The proposal would affect citizens and people born in countries on the State Department’s State Sponsors Terrorism List, including Iran, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea. It would also apply to citizens of another 55 countries with a more than 10 percent rate of visa overstays, including all but a few African countries. Some of those countries send large numbers of foreign students to the US, including Vietnam, Nigeria, and Nepal.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, more than 24,000 Vietnamese, 13,000 Nigerians, 13,000 Nepalese, and 12,000 Iranians were enrolled in US universities, according to the Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education.

Foreign students who are not from any of the affected countries but are enrolled in schools that are unaccredited or do not participate in the federal employment eligibility verification program E-Verify would also only be eligible for a two-year visa.

Targeting countries with high visa overstay rates means targeting African countries

The majority of people who overstay their visa in the US are from China, India, Brazil, and Canada — none of which are impacted by the proposed rule. Rather, it targets primarily students from African countries.

The countries with the highest visa overstay rates, with the exception of Syria and Nigeria, actually account for only a small proportion of total annual visa overstays.

In fiscal year 2019, Burundi, for example, had a 44 percent visa overstay rate for students and exchange visitors — one of the highest worldwide. But it accounted for only 127 of the more than 60,000 total estimated overstays. China, by comparison, had a less than 2 percent overstay rate in those visa categories, but as the top-sending country for foreign students, it accounted for more than 11,000 overstays.

Trump has a history of seeking to discriminate against immigrants from African countries. He has sought to keep out Africans from what he called “shithole countries” while suggesting that the US should accept more immigrants from predominantly white nations like Norway. And he’s repeatedly sought to dismantle the diversity visa lottery {snip}

Last year, he also imposed restrictions on citizens of four African countries — Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania — seeking to immigrate to the US permanently as part of an expansion of his travel ban policy.