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Upcoming Changes to Student Visas (F and J)

Student Visas (F and J) have been around for many years but are about to see the most far-reaching changes in the last 20 years.

Student Visas allow foreigners to come to the U.S. to study or study and work. In some cases, student visa holders can work while studying or request a temporary work permit (called Optional Practical Training or OPT) valid for 1 to 2 years to start working full time after graduation. Student Visa holders receive an F-1 or J-1 visa while dependents receive an F-2 or J-2 visa.


Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security issued a 256-page document detailing the proposed changes to Student Visas with the public comment period set to end on October 26, 2020. As of today, the DHS had received hundreds of comments mostly criticizing the proposed rules.


Here is a summary of the proposed changes and how they could adversely impact future student visa holders:


  • Under the new rule, student visa holders may be admitted into the U.S. but subject to shorter admission periods of two to four years. Under the current rule, student visa holders are allowed to lawfully remain in the U.S. for the duration of their status (D/S) which means that as long as a student visa holder maintains a valid I-20 (for F-1) or DS-2019 (for J-1), he or she can stay in the country;


  • F-1 students enrolled in an English as a Second Language (or ESL) program are limited to a maximum enrollment period of 24 months including breaks;

  • F-1 students will be allowed to enroll in programs of the same educational level for a maximum of three times; and


  • F-1 students will be allowed to change to a lower educational level program only once.


Under the current rule, student visa holders can stay in the country for the duration of their status. In other words, student visa holders can remain in the U.S. indefinitely as long as they maintain their student status and have a current and valid I-20. One of the many concerns raised by the proposed changes above is their impact on residency training for medical students and physicians, students in training, and professionals enrolled in educational programs such as Ph.D. programs that cannot be completed under four years. The more strict two-year limitation is set to impact only international students coming from countries listed as State Sponsors of Terrorism such as Syria, Sudan, Iran and North Korea.


My personal experience with student visas - having been a student visa holder myself in the past - is that allowing international students to pursue their goals of higher education in the U.S. should be of utmost importance for our nation. If you are thinking about coming to the U.S. on a student visa or you are already in the U.S. and wish to change your status to learn English or attend a professional educational program, we can guide you through this process. Contact me, Randa, today at (801) 608-4706 or randa@skvlegal.com for a free initial consultation to learn about your options and how we can help you.