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How Will New US Visa Restrictions Affect International Students

President Donald Trump has revised the US Visa Restrictions for international students on 6th July. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agreed with Trump’s decision and the law will be effective from 24th June. This policy will be applied to students with F-1 and M-1 visa categories. It also includes those students who are taking online classes due to the pandemic. This new student visa policy order is strongly criticized by the academic, political, and industrial sector because it has left more than a million pupils in an unprecedented situation abroad.

The status of students who were waiting outside the USA has also become unclear with new restrictions. The diplomatic missions of the US in other countries are not functioning properly due to the outbreak so it is difficult for the visas to arrive in time for the fall semester.

US Visa Restrictions Face Lawsuit

District of Columbia, 17 States of America, and some international universities including MIT and Harvard filed a lawsuit against ICE and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for approving these restrictions. Tech companies including Google and Facebook supported the lawsuit by filing an amicus brief stating that imposing the new policy could bring significant harm to the overall business in the US.

A common concern of a foreign student is working legally while studying. The previously educational visa allowed to enter in two programs; Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Circular Practical Training (CPT). These programs enabled the pupils to work part-time for 12 total months after completing the first academic year.

The filed amicus brief mentions these two programs as key recruitment windows for US businesses. They were the only way in the US to develop skills for the students and improve overall country – student international relationships. However, 18 attorney generals mutually dubbed the government’s action as abrupt, cruel, and unlawful for expelling international students in these dire circumstances. Trump’s administration often causes a set of problems for immigrants. In 2017, he banned the spouses of H1B visa holders from working.

The Future of Foreign Students Is Unclear

The effect of these restriction on students goes beyond education. For some, it would mean going back to the countries that are highly unsafe right now. Some will be separated from their families in US. Others might have to work at abnormal times due to attending online classes from abroad. Number of efforts have been made by lawmakers to convince government in rescinding the order. 

It is also unclear whether the new students would be able to file a US visa application or enroll in an educational program for an F-1 visa under the new law.

Obstructions in Student Visa Services

As the missions, consulates, and embassies are facing staff shortage, the visa process might not even succeed even if this policy is discarded. Embassies suspended their regular services during the month of March and started providing only emergency services.

US Department of State claimed that the said services would resume soon with new and improved functionalities. Missions would provide allegedly helpful additional services that will ultimately allow full resumption of visa services. US Department of State failed to commit to the specific dates on which the processing of required visa categories would resume.

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