The US Citizenship Act of 2021, introduced last month by senator Bob Menendez and representative Linda Sanchez, includes provisions that would help international students, the organisation said.
“The dual intent provision is pretty big and I’m hopeful that that is going to be helpful in sending a welcoming message”
These include the permitting of “dual intent” for F-1 visa applicants and new rules which would make it easier for international STEM PhD students to stay in the United States after graduation.
“The dual intent provision is pretty big and I’m hopeful that that is going to be helpful in sending a welcoming message to international students,” Sarah Spreitzer director, government relations at ACE, told The PIE News.
“We do allow for dual intent on other visa programs, but it hasn’t been included for F-1’s before. And so this means that a student is not going to have to show that they have property in their home country to demonstrate evidence that they plan to return.”
Under the current system, which does not permit dual intent, international students have to say that they intend to leave the US when they finish their courses.
Visas are sometimes denied if a student cannot explicitly demonstrate that they plan to return to their home country after their studies.
According to Karin Fischer, nine in 10 visa denials – close to a quarter of all applications – relate to a failure to convince officials that they solely intend to come and study and then leave.
NAFSA and ACE have previously placed the allowance of dual intent at the top of their wish lists for the incoming Biden administration.
“If you were a STEM PhD graduate and you wish to remain in the country, you could immediately apply for a green card”
Section 3401 of the bill details another important proposal for international students. It would create a new green card program (not subject to the numerical limitations) for international students graduating from an accredited nonprofit or for-profit institution of higher education with a PhD in a STEM field as defined by the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs.
“If you were a STEM PhD graduate and you wish to remain in the country, you could immediately apply for a green card,” Spreitzer explained.
As well as this new green card for PhD graduate students, the country caps on green cards will be re-assessed.
“The other thing that international student graduates who wish to remain in the country have been concerned with is the country cap on green cards,” Spreitzer said.
“This bill would address this by increasing the overall number of green cards, capturing previously unused green cards and removing certain categories from the numerical caps and then removing the per country caps.”
“If you have a pending visa application for more than a year, you can remain on that visa status”
Earlier this year The PIE reported that OPT backlogs meant international students were losing job opportunities, and even their legal immigration status.
Section 3410 of the new bill would prevent such issues in the future. New rules would authorise an extension for non-immigrant visas, including F-1s for international students, if they have a pending visa petition or application (such as H-1B) for more than one year.
Extensions would be made in one-year increments and would allow for employment authorisation when such extensions are granted.
“If you have a pending visa application for more than a year, you can remain on that visa status, so that would be helpful with the current OPT delays that we have,” Spreitzer told The PIE.