Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
23rd Jun 2021

US withdraws proposed rule on fixed-term limits for international student visas

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • The US government has withdrawn a controversial rule that would have introduced specific term limits for US study visas
  • Many students would have been limited to four-year study terms in the US, but some faced even more severe limits of two-year caps on their US study programmes
  • With the formal withdrawal of the proposal this month, the current practices around allowing students to remain in the US for the duration of their studies will prevail

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced earlier this month that it has formally withdrawn a proposed rule change that sought to place term limits on international student visas. The rule would have upended the long-standing "duration of study" provisions under which US student visas are currently issued or renewed.

That approach essentially allows foreign students to remain in the US for the duration of their academic programmes so long as they are abiding by the rules of their visa category.

The proposed rule would have prevented many international students from staying in the US for longer than four years (unless they were granted a visa extension or successfully reapplied for a new visa). But it also proposed even more severe limits of two years for students from Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria, and from any other countries for which visa overstay rates exceeded 10%.

The proposal was widely condemned by international educators when it was first introduced in September 2020. Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, said at the time that the rule would “set arbitrary timelines that do not match how many academic programmes work, and it is creating barriers and uncertainty for international students who are going to wonder, ‘Is the US the right place for me to come?’” In an open letter to DHS in fall 2020, NAFSA urged the agency to "withdraw this poorly conceived rule from consideration."

In its formal June 2021 notice, DHS confirmed that it, "Intends to withdraw this proposed rule. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) originally proposed modifying the period of authorised stay for certain categories of non-immigrants traveling to the United States by eliminating the availability of 'duration of status' and by providing a maximum period of authorised stay with options for extensions for each applicable visa category."

In a related update, NAFSA explains that the proposed rule never moved beyond the consultation phase, which it attributes in large part to The Biden Administration Regulatory Freeze Memorandum from 20 January 2021, an executive order which provided for "varied temporary stops on implementation of 'midnight rules' issued by the [outgoing] Trump administration, to give the Biden administration time to review those regulations and policies."

"When the Biden Administration issued its Regulatory Freeze memorandum," adds NAFSA, "DHS had not yet sent a final duration of status rule to [the federal Office of Management and Budget] for review or to the Office of the Federal Register for publication. Paragraph 1 of the Regulatory Freeze memorandum likely means that no final rule could advance 'until a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on 20 January 2021, reviews and approves the rule.'"

The end result, with the proposal now withdrawn by DHS, is that the current duration of study practices for US study visas will remain in place.

For additional background, please see:

Most Recent

  • Australian unis brace for risk assessment as visa rejections continue Read More
  • Former edtech unicorn’s stock price plunges as universities take DIY approach to online learning Read More
  • Malaysia opens new post-study visa option for degree graduates Read More

Most Popular

  • Canada’s foreign enrolment grew by more than 30% in 2022 Read More
  • Measuring cost of study and cost of living across study destinations Read More
  • Recruiting in the Emirates: Big goals, world-class education, and new scholarships Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Australian unis brace for risk assessment as visa rejections continue Australia’s education providers continue to grapple with a significant spike in visa rejections. As many as 1 in...
Read more
Malaysia opens new post-study visa option for degree graduates Effective 1 December 2023, Malaysia introduced a package of new visa settings designed to make it easier for...
Read more
New policies, Erasmus+, and booming tourism boost Spain’s international education sector New government policies in Spain – as well as a changed competitive context in the broader international education...
Read more
Dutch universities detail plan to reduce international enrolment The Dutch government spent most of last year signalling its concern about the rapid growth of international student...
Read more
Australia: Visa rejection rates spike as some institutions withdraw admissions offers under new migration settings Australia’s new migration strategy – announced in late 2023 and in effect now – has led to significant...
Read more
Demand for study abroad rising in China but students considering more destinations in 2024 The shape of Chinese outbound student mobility has been changing for years and is different again in 2024....
Read more
Universities UK announces admissions and agent probe In the wake of critical media coverage in recent weeks, the UK’s higher education sector will undertake a...
Read more
Canada: Updated guidance on international student enrolment cap A 5 February statement from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offers some additional detail on the hard...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links