The United States is considering new guidelines that could restrict some international students, many of them from African countries, from applying for courses with a duration longer than four years.
A proposed plan issued by the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) outlines changes to student visas that have previously been issued for the duration of a course. Under existing rules, those visas remain valid as long as the student continues to meet program requirements.
The new rule sets a visa term limit of four years with the possibility of applying for extensions. But students from certain countries will be limited to just two years due to “heightened concerns related to fraud, abuse, and national security,” according to the DHS.
“A key goal of shifting aliens in F status from D/S to an admission for a fixed time period is to provide pre-defined time periods for immigration officers to evaluate whether a nonimmigrant has maintained his or her status,” the DHS said in a statement. It added that the rule seeks to reduce instances in which students and exchange visitors “unlawfully remain in the United States after their program or practical training ends.”
The move could leave many African students having to reapply for visas in the middle of their degree courses. Students from countries listed by the US as state sponsors of terror will be affected, but the largest group are those from countries who have had more than 10% of their citizens overstay their visas.
According to US government data, Nigeria had an overstay rate of 13% in 2019. Other countries with high visa overstays include Benin, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana and Haiti.
The Trump administration says the proposed rule is necessary to increase oversight of international students and combat fraud and visa overstays.