Summary – USDHS PROPOSED Rule Impacting Period of Admission for F, J, and I Visa Status
As we first noted on September 25, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Proposed Rule to change the period of admission to the U.S. for F and J students and exchange visitors, and I status for representatives of foreign media, from Duration of Status “D/S” (the duration of the academic program or media assignment) to a fixed period of stay.
As a reminder, this is only a PROPOSED Rule and does NOT take effect immediately. Rather, it is notice from DHS of a contemplated change, and provides a 30-day period for public comment, after which DHS must review all comments, and if desired put forward a final rule for review by the Office of Management and Budget, and then publish. MIT, its peer institutions, and professional associations representing higher education and international exchange have deep concerns about the Proposed Rule, and we anticipate that many comments will be submitted.
Some of the key provisions of the Proposed Rule include the following:
- Students/Exchange Visitors entering the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status (or F-2 or J-2 dependents) would be granted an initial period of stay commensurate with their I-20 or DS-2019, or up to 4 years regardless of the anticipated length of the program of study or research (in certain cases the period of admission would be up to 2 years).
- Currently, extensions of F-1 or J-1 status are processed in SEVIS by the MIT International Students Office or MIT International Scholars Office and do not require filing an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Under the Proposed Rule, Students/Exchange Visitors whose programs of study or research are anticipated to be longer than the 2- or 4-year period of initial admission would need to submit an application for Extension of Nonimmigrant Status to USCIS. A separate application would be submitted for each additional 2- or 4-year period of stay needed.
(For example, a Ph.D. student whose program of study length is normally 6 years would be required to apply for an extension at least once to USCIS. A postdoctoral associate or fellow whose appointment is extended in one- or two-year increments would be required to apply for Extension of Status each time their appointment/J-1 document is extended.)
- Students/Exchange Visitors transferring to a new school/program would be required to submit an Extension of Status application to USCIS (with fee) that must be approved.
- Students/Exchange Visitors changing to a new degree level (at the same institution or a different institution) that extends the program completion date would be required to submit an Extension of Status application (with fee) to USCIS that must be approved.
- The F-1 grace period, after completion of studies or completion of authorized post-degree-completion Optional Practical Training, would be reduced from 60 days to 30 days.
- The F-1 cap-gap period would be extended beyond October 1, up through April 1, for an individual with an H-1B petition that is still pending and not yet approved by USCIS.
- Students applying for post-degree-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training or F-1 STEM OPT Extension would be required to submit both an Extension of Status application (with fee) and an application for employment authorization, and have both applications approved by USCIS.
- Exchange Visitor students applying for J-1 Academic Training, following the MIT ISO authorization for Academic Training, would be required to submit an Extension of Status application to USCIS (with fee) and be approved BEFORE the Academic Training activity can be started.
Given a few inquiries we have received already, we want to clarify what the Proposed Rule does NOT include:
- The Proposed Rule does NOT eliminate or create reductions/restrictions on eligibility for F-1 Curricular Practical Training, F-1 Optional Practical Training, F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training, J-1 Academic Training, or J-2 work authorization. These would remain available benefits.
- The Proposed Rule does NOT prevent Students and Exchange Visitors who have filed for an Extension of Status from traveling while their application is pending. They would still be eligible to travel/leave the U.S., with close consultation with their international student/scholar advisor. However, they may not be able to return to the U.S. from abroad beyond the original end date if the Extension of Status application has not yet been approved by USCIS.
A detailed summary and additional resource links on the Proposed Rule is available from NAFSA: Association of International Educators here.
Individuals may choose to submit their own comments on the Proposed Rule (DHS Docket No. ICEB-2019-0006) through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. A “Comment Now!” button appears at the upper right corner of the proposed rule on Regulations.gov, at: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DHS_FRDOC_0001-1933. Follow the website instructions to submit comments. Comments must be received by October 26, 2020.
The MIT International Scholars Office (ISchO) and MIT International Students Office (ISO) will host an Open Forum on the Proposed Rule on Thursday, October 22 from 12:00noon-1:00pm Eastern U.S. time. Additional details about the Forum, including instructions for submitting questions in advance, will be forwarded via separate email.
We will keep the MIT community updated on any developments going forward related to the Proposed Rule on the Major Immigration Alerts and Updates website. If there are any individual questions, please do not hesitate to contact your advisor in the MIT International Scholars Office or the MIT International Students Office.