Recently, The US Department of State updated its guidance for consular officers who oversee and approve study visas for future international students.
The updated version of the Residence Abroad Guidance entails that consular officers will be only concerned with the student’s ‘current intent to depart’ the country after they finish their program without any interrogations or proof regarding ties of property, employment, and continuity of life that are usually asked of short-term visa applicants.
This adjustment was well-received by stakeholders since they believe it will benefit students worldwide who are seeking to study in the USA.
The US also announced that visa interview waivers would be extended for all international students throughout 2022.
Commenting on the changes, NAFSA’s deputy executive director of public policy, Jill Allen Murray, stated: “We are pleased by the restoration of the language in the Foreign Affairs Manual that instructs consular officers to keep in mind the ‘inherent difference’ between a young F-1 visa applicant and other established short-term visa applicant.”
Another entity that has been advocating for these changes to be instated is the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, as conveyed by its executive director, Miriam Feldblum.
“We commend the Biden administration and State department for the return to sensible residence abroad policy that clarifies the different circumstances of international students,” she said.
Allen Murray also believes that “restoring these helpful distinctions to the residence abroad requirement for F students was one of NAFSA’s key recommendations to the Department of State.” This ensures that an F-1 visa applicant won’t be penalised for not having the same requirements that short-term visa applicants, such as B tourists, might be expected to have.
While Feldblum expressed that “This is a crucial step for reinvigorating international student mobility,” Murray clarified that this change does not negate the requirement of F student visa applicants demonstrating nonimmigrant intent when applying for a visa.
Feldblum explains that for that to happen, “a change in the law – in the Immigration and Nationality Act – is needed to give F international student visa applicants the option to have and express an intent to remain in the US; permanently.”
She notes that The US Citizenship Act of 2021, which would extend dual intent to F-1 students, is currently stalled in Congress after being introduced in mid-February 2021. Murray further states that “NAFSA continues to push for critical reforms that will enhance international students’ experience in the US.”