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US sector welcomes withdrawal of proposed Duration of Status rule

The US Department of Homeland Security has announced it will withdraw a Trump-era proposal to eliminate duration of status for international and exchange students coming to the country.

The withdrawal of the proposed rule is a "good first step" in communicating a more welcoming message to international students, stakeholders said. Photo: Pixabay

"DHS believes some of the comments may be justified and is concerned that the changes proposed unnecessarily impede access to immigration benefits"

The proposed rule change from September 25, 2020, would limit the time international students can remain in the country.

Bodies such as EnglishUSA have previously said that without guarantee that they will be able to complete their academic path, many international students will opt to study in alternative study destinations.

DHS also received 32,000 public comments on the proposed rule change, of which less than 1% expressed support for the proposed rule, according to the government.

The 99% of commenters opposing the rule argued it discriminates against certain groups of people based on their nationality as well as that it would “significantly burden” international and exchange students.

They also noted the cost of the extension of stay application fee would “impose exorbitant costs and burdens” on students and scholars, the Federal Register noted.

“Having reviewed the public comments received in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking in light of Executive Order 14012 (“Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans”), DHS believes some of the comments may be justified and is concerned that the changes proposed unnecessarily impede access to immigration benefits,” DHS secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas wrote.

The Executive Order 14012, from February 2, 2021, instructs the DHS secretary to “identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits”.

Previous calls to withdraw the law also came from 20 Republican members of Congress, state attorney generals from 21 states and the District of Columbia, as well as almost 80 Democratic members of the House and Senate.

An American Council on Education letter urged the DHS to reconsider its “largely unworkable” proposal in 2020.

“The proposed rule was unworkable and especially inappropriate”

In a statement to The PIE, Sarah Spreitzer, director for the Department of Government and Public Affairs at the American Council on Education said the organisation is “very happy the Biden administration has taken this step to formally withdraw this problematic proposed rule”.

“In our first communication with newly confirmed secretary Mayorkas we had asked that the Biden administration take this step, in order to send a more welcoming message to our international students,” Spreitzer explained.

“When this rule was originally proposed, we had submitted substantial comments on why the proposed rule was unworkable and especially inappropriate, because it would insert DHS into decisions around whether or not international students were making satisfactory academic progress within a program of study.

“The proposed rule would also apply unreasonable timelines on how quickly students would need to complete a program of study, with no guarantee that they could remain in the country to finish a program of study that they had already started,” she added.

“Formally withdrawing this proposed rule is a good first step in communicating a more welcoming message to our international students seeking to study in the US.”

“We have been working toward this outcome since October 2018”

“NAFSA is pleased that the Biden administration officially withdrew the proposed rule to eliminate duration of status for F students and J exchange visitors,” said Esther D. Brimmer, executive director and CEO of NAFSA.

“We have been working toward this outcome since October 2018 when the proposal to eliminate  D/S  first appeared on the Regulatory Agenda.

Among the 32,000 comments DHS received were thousands from NAFSA’s advocates, along with NAFSA’s own comment letter that urged DHS to withdraw the “poorly conceived” rule, she added.

The organisation added that restoring the perception of the US as a welcoming study destination should be a priority for the State Department and embassy outreach and that the government should establish a coordinated US recruitment strategy.

Additionally, extending current dual intent policy to international students in F status will allow them the opportunity to remain in the US after completing their program of study and creating a direct path to lawful permanent residence will also make the country a “more welcoming” place for international students

“NAFSA will continue to guard against changes in policy that will harm U.S. competitiveness for international students and scholars while zealously advocating for laws and policies that welcome them,” Brimmer added.

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