If you're an undergraduate student, graduate student, temporary migrant worker, or exchange visitor planning to come to the US, a few changes could be underway that may require changing or adjusting your plans. Visitors insurance firm Visitor Guard has been monitoring the talk of new proposed regulations that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) could implement soon. These regulations are not yet in effect, but here is what current and new migrant students and workers should be aware of.
Current trend of international student enrollment at US universities
The main reason that ICE and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are proposing these new rules is to prevent abuses in the visa program. In the past, there have been concerns cited over the visa system including terrorist-related activities and other less serious matters. But today, the US may have a problem with bringing in new foreign students that could have undesired effects on both university enrollment and the national economy. Studies have shown that foreign student enrollment in the US has been decreasing since 2015, and the latest numbers for the 2018-2019 school year had the total number of new foreign students enrolled in the US at just over 269,000. In the meantime, foreign student enrollments in Canada and Australia jumped up dramatically, a trend that's likely to continue along with decreasing enrollments in the US if these new ICE rules go into effect.
The basics of the proposed rules
The new rules proposed are going to have more specific hard deadlines on the length of time that foreign student visas will last. “If the academic career of a student takes longer than anticipated, they would also have to undergo the same process as new students who are moving from undergrad to graduate programs, said Chiranth Nataraj, founder and CEO of Visitor Guard. “We predict students in the following visa categories F2, F2, M1, and M2 will be negatively impacted most by this rule.”
What Nataraj is referring to is the requirement that would force students to reapply for their visa if their program of study exceeded the specified length of time. It would also make them go through more extension filing and have to go through new paperwork if they decided they wanted to change their academic plans, go from undergraduate school to graduate school and beyond, and then pursue other career goals. Up until now, the only requirement has been to maintain student status, but the length of time in studies and US residence has not mattered.
The costs of the potential new rules
There are actually a lot of costs to consider when weighing the effects that these new rules could have. Foreign students already have to pay quite a bit for student visas depending on which category they fall into, and that includes both the SEVIS fee and application fee. But with these new rules, there will be fees will be added to those in the event that extensions need to be obtained. But students may also have to travel back to their home countries in order to apply for these new visas, a miscellaneous cost that ICE and DHS could be reviewing but have not stated whether or not it would be necessary. But as has been stated earlier, the US is facing some tough competition in the global markets where foreign students are concerned, and these potential new visa costs and risks for studying in the US may have foreign students reconsidering their options for studying abroad. The US government could potentially hurt the revenue stream going into its colleges, but even more so they may miss out on the contributions of talented internationals who could create jobs or deliver tremendous value to the nation's workforce.
In conclusion, there are a lot of consequences that need to be weighed in as well as potential modifications to these proposed rules in order to get a win for everyone. There certainly are reasons that government officials could point to that make changes to the status quo of student immigrant and migrant worker visas necessary, but there should be other measures taken to help incentivize foreign students to come to the US. In the meantime, foreign students to the US may want to make sure they have the right traveler's insurance to protect them from the consequences of potential new ICE rule implementations.