Restrictions on period of admission for visa categories

The rule proposes fixed time periods and extension periods for the three visa categories which currently operate under the “duration of status” framework.

In line with the Trump administration’s progressive  restrictions on visas, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has  proposed a rule limiting the duration of initial admission for foreign media (I visas), students  (F visas) and exchange visitors (J visas).

Also read: Trump signs executive order against hiring H1B visa holders for federal contracts

The rule proposes fixed time periods and extension periods for the three visa categories which currently operate under the “duration of status” framework. Under the present system, visa holders in these categories are allowed to remain in the US for as long as the conditions of admission are met (for example, as long as an F visa holder is enrolled in a university and meeting other conditions). This rule, if finalized, will change that.

Under the new proposed rule F and J students would be admitted for an initial period of four years only (the normal duration of an American undergraduate degree). This rule is likely to mean that Ph.D. students – who typically need more than four years to complete their program in America – will need to apply for extensions.

There are some exceptions to the four year rule. The duration of stay will be two years for  those from countries with visa-overstay rates greater than 10% and those non-US citizens either born in or holding citizenship of a country on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. F and J students already admitted will have their “duration of status” (i.e., “D/S” is stamped at the port of entry in travel documents)  terms converted to a term ending with the end of their program (not to exceed four years)  if and when the proposed DHS rule becomes final.

Also read: Trump issues proclamation to suspend H-1B, other visas till year end

Most countries with the highest over-stay rates are from Africa and none are in Europe (U.S. fiscal year 2018), according to a analysis done by immigration firm Boundless. 

“The significant growth of the F, J and I visa programs has necessitated this proposed update to ensure the integrity of the U.S. immigration system, but this rule does not propose changes to the underlying requirements to qualify for these non-immigrant classifications,” a DHS press statement said.

As per the proposal published in the federal register, the rule would help limit fraud in the F-1 program.

For the media visas, under the proposal foreign journalists would have to apply again at the end of their limited duration of stay for an extension “at which point immigration officers can review their activities in the United States,” the proposed rule says.  U.S. President Donald Trump has had a strained relationship with the media and the current rule could theoretically place journalists who have written critical pieces on the president or administration in a vulnerable position.

Foreign Journalists to be admitted for 240 days initially 

Foreign media visa holders will initially be admitted for a period not exceeding 240 days with “an opportunity to extend their stay for a maximum of 240 days based on the length of relevant activities,” the statement said.

The proposed rule is open to the public for comments until October 26, 2020.

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