Agency Update: DHS Proposes Replacing Visa Duration of Status Policies

This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed rule that would replace the current Duration of Status policies for F, J, and I visa holders with fixed time periods of admission, as a way to increase oversight over these categories of nonimmigrants.  The proposed fixed length of time would not exceed four years for many nonimmigrant visa holders and generally reflect program end dates on individual I-20 or DS-2019 forms.  However, certain nonimmigrants would have even shorter periods of admission, up to two-year admissions, due to national security and fraud concerns.  Those under more limited time durations would include nonimmigrants from countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, those from countries with higher overstay rates, or students who are enrolled in specific courses of study of national security concern.  Additionally, nonimmigrants enrolled in unaccredited schools or programs not participating in E-Verify or would face shorter stay limits.  The rule would allow for a transition period from the Duration of Status framework for current visa holders to the fixed date model, not to exceed four years from the rule’s effective date.

DHS recognizes many F, J, and I nonimmigrants will not be able to complete their activities within their period of admission.  For those F, J, and I nonimmigrants seeking additional time for admission, individuals will have to apply for an extension of stay directly with DHS or to depart the country and apply for admission at a port of entry.  DHS also proposes new procedures and standards to request extensions.  For F-1 visa holders, the rule proposes new limitations on the number of times a student could change educational programs and would limit language training to 24 months of study in aggregate.  DHS notes that these changes have the potential to reduce the nonimmigrant student enrollment and exchange visitor participation.

The deadline for public comment submissions is October 26, 2020.  Comments should be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at under DHS Docket No. ICEB-2019-0006.

National higher education associations intend to respond with concerns to the proposed rule and are encouraging institutional responses as well.

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