Visa Crunch

International Students To Benefit By The Revised Consular Guidance For Visa Officials: US State Department

The US Department of State has amended its advice for consular officers who grant study visas for aspiring foreign students, a development that stakeholders have applauded and anticipate which will assist international students looking to study in the US.

According to the new Residence Abroad Guidance, officers should only be concerned with the “present purpose to depart” the US following the completion of the program, and are not required to ask for ties of property, job, and continuity of life, which are needed of short-term visa applicants. Furthermore, the visa interview waivers for overseas students and scholars will continue until the end of 2022.

According to several organizations, the revisions will assist students from all over the world in better navigating the requirements of existing immigration legislation.

“We are pleased by the restoration of the language in the Foreign Affairs Manual that instructs consular officers to consider the ‘inherent difference’ between a young F-1 visa applicant and a more established short-term visa applicant,” said Jill Allen Murray, NAFSA’s deputy executive director of public policy.

One of NAFSA’s primary suggestions to the Department of State was to restore these useful distinctions to the residence abroad requirement for F-1 students. This move assures that the ordinary F-1 visa applicant will not be penalized for lacking the ‘ties of property, work, and continuity of life’ that applicants for short-term visas, such as B tourists, may be required to have, and that such requirements will be viewed in their correct context.

The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, whose executive director is Miriam Feldblum, has long lobbied for the State Department to revise its consular instructions.

“We commend the Biden administration and State department for the return to sensible residence abroad policy that clarifies the unique circumstances of international students when applying for visas to study here and will help US colleges and universities welcome top talent from around the globe,” she said.

“This is a crucial step for reinvigorating international student mobility.”

NAFSA’s deputy executive director of public policy, Allen Murray, meanwhile, emphasized that the change does not remove the compulsion that F-1 student visa applicants exhibit non-immigrant status while applying for a visa.

The US Citizenship Act of 2021, which would offer dual intent to F-1 students and was introduced in mid-February 2021, is now stuck in Congress, she said.

The FAM modification is a welcome acknowledgement of the reality of overseas students’ life. NAFSA strongly advocates for pivotal policy changes that will improve the experience of international students in the United States and the ability of US higher education institutions to recruit and retain them, such as extending dual intent to F-1 students and instituting a journey to a green card for international student graduates.

As NAFSA suggested, the Department of Homeland Security removed a proposed rule to change the term of status policy from its regulatory agenda in spring 2021.

“We also are calling on the Biden administration to adopt a comprehensive national strategy for international education, led by a White House coordinating council, which would include these policies and several other components,” Allen Murray added.

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