Higher education and business organizations are urging the Trump administration to withdraw a proposed regulation that would set maximum periods of stay for foreign students and exchange visitors.

The proposed rule was published last month, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) saying it would allow officials to better monitor whether F, J and I nonimmigrant visa holders are maintaining their status in the U.S. Opponents argue that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) already has the tools it needs to do this, and that the regulation would hinder competitiveness in the global economy.

“If the United States is to remain a leader in science and innovation, we must encourage, rather than deter, the best minds from around the world to study and conduct research at our institutions,” said an Oct. 26 letter from the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. “One of the greatest strengths of our U.S. higher education system has been our ability to attract international students and scholars. These students and scholars enrich our classrooms, drive innovation, promote scientific advancement, and create jobs.”

The DHS rule would modify the period of authorized stay for international students, exchange visitors, and media personnel by eliminating the availability of duration of status (“D/S”) and imposing a fixed period of admission. It would establish new requirements for individuals in those visa categories to maintain and extend their status.

The Presidents’ Alliance argues that the issuance of the rule violated normal administrative procedures and would by bad policy by making U.S. higher education less competitive internationally, harming universities’ financial interests and intruding on academic decision-making. The rule has also drawn opposition from the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) and Compete America, a business coalition that advocates for creating jobs by reforming high-skilled immigration.

“Our nation’s competitive advantage in educational choices generates major benefits to U.S. educational institutions, to their students, and to our economy,” Compete America said in an Oct. 26 letter. “It is an important reason why the United States has achieved and maintained, for the time being, the leading competitive edge globally in technology and innovation. This (rule) is counterproductive to those national interests, obstructing the process for accepting foreign students into our higher education system and integrating them productively into our economy, without generating articulable benefits to the integrity of the immigration system.”

The final regulation will likely not take effect for months. A 30-day comment period on the proposed regulation ended Oct. 26, but the government will accept comments until Nov. 25 on form changes that are required by the rule. ICE must review and consider the comments before finalizing the rule, and may make changes to the rule based on comments it receives. The final rule is expected to have a 60-day delayed effective date.

BAL Analysis: Despite the opposition, the administration is pushing forward with ICE’s duration of status rule. BAL continues to work with Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and other coalitions to push for maximally beneficial immigration policies for U.S. universities and companies. Current rules on duration of status for F, J, and I nonimmigrants will remain in place until a final regulation takes effect. BAL continues to follow the regulation as it moves through the rulemaking process and will provide additional updates as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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