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Trump admin’s proposed overhaul of VISA policy could leave many international students hanging in the balance

The international student community is on edge as President Donald Trump's latest proposed changes threaten to kneecap student VISAs.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration rolled out proposed rule changes that could ultimately derail the academic structure for many international students who have just begun the 2020-21 academic year, reports USA Today.

The 256-page document, which outlines Trump's proposed overhaul for student VISAs, includes directives and initiatives that have been met with opposition from many who have noted the long-term impacts of the proposed changes. Although Trump believes the changes may be economically beneficial where the job market is concerned, experts warn such changes could ultimately devastate scientific research and technological innovation.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell Law School professor and attorney specializing in immigration law, weighed in with his take on the proposed changes.

"The overall tone of the proposed rules sends a chilling message to current and prospective international students that we are no longer a welcoming nation," said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor and attorney at Cornell Law School who specializes in immigration law. "It says we're more focused on national security threats, and that we suspect they could be coming here to do harm rather than help the U.S."

"It feels terrible," Lewis-Nicol said. "The stigma is that if you're from Africa, you're not wanted and that your dreams are not as valid."

According to the Yale-Loehr's analysis, there are three distinctly problematic changes Trump's proposed directives could:

  • Require most international students to complete their degree programs in four years. Based on statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse, most first-time college students spend more than five years earning a bachelor's degree, and many doctoral degree programs also take more than four years to complete;
  • Limit stays in the United States to just two years for some international students;
  • Require many international students to apply for extensions to their visas after their initial two-year stay with no guarantee that extension would be granted, especially if the immigration agency makes a determination that suggests the student is not making substantial progress toward earning their degree.

With the level of uncertainty that surrounds Trump's proposed rule changes, Students have also expressed concern as their futures hang in the balance.

Briana Quintenz, director of the Center for International Education at Millikin University revealed they are "sending things out almost constantly trying to calm the fears of our international students" in the wake of these possible changes.

"It's so unfair to them that they can't just enjoy their college experience," Quintenz said. "They have to continually dissect these very confusing regulations that seem to be coming out all the time. My biggest concern is that the already very rigid restrictions are going to become even more complicated, and international students are just going to stop trying to come to the U.S."

However, the Trump administration has a different take on the situation. According to Ken Cuccinelli, a senior immigration official in the Department of Homeland Security, they believe enforcing stricter requirements would ensure only legitimate students are given the opportunity to attend collegiate institutions in the United States.

Cuccinelli said, "Amending the relevant regulations is critical in improving program oversight mechanisms; preventing foreign adversaries from exploiting the country's education environment; and properly enforcing and strengthening U.S. immigration laws."

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