US prepares to attach fixed end-date on student visas for NepalisEducation consultants say the move could force students to look for universities in other countries.
The US government is proposing to issue student visas with a fixed end-date attached for citizens from certain countries, repealing its current practice of allowing a visa to remain valid for as long as the foreign student concerned attends school.
The new measures, which are to be introduced for students from 59 countries, including Nepal, will disappoint hundreds of Nepali students aspiring to attend American colleges, consultants advising students on abroad study said.
Currently, a student visa is valid for as long as a student is enrolled in a course of study. However, the Department of Homeland Security, has proposed to limit the validity period to two years for students from countries such as Nepal. The department said that the two-year limit is for citizens of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism or of those who have overstay records of above 10 percent.
“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 US immigration laws,” Ken Cuccinelli, senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary, was quoted in a release by the department on Thursday.
Usually, undergraduate and the Phd programmes take more than two years to complete in the US. According to the proposed rule, students who need an extension, can apply for one if they meet government-set criteria. However, US media reports say it is not clear if everyone applying would be granted such an extension.
Managers of education consultancies who have been assisting students secure admissions at universities abroad say the rule could demotivate students who would have otherwise applied to American colleges and universities. Santosh Pyakurel, chairperson of National Educational Consultancies Association, said the new provision might be a part of Donald Trump’s election agenda.
“This is an unwelcome decision. I am sure that many students would simply want to avoid the risk of going to the US unless a visa for their entire study period is guaranteed,” he told the Post.
The US has been one of the most sought-after academic destinations for the Nepali students.
A report by the Institute of International Education and the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affair in November, 2017 said Nepali students studying in US universities are the fastest growing international student population in the country. The report showed a 20 percent increase in Nepali students enrolled in US higher education institutions, between 2015-16 and 2016-17.
The growth in the number of undergraduate students was 42.4 percent while the number for graduate ones stood at 4.3 percent.
Similarly, the 2018 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange data released by the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs showed Nepal ranked 1oth among the top 25 countries of origin for international undergraduate students. The number of Nepali students grew by 14.3 percent in the year over the previous year which was the highest growth among the top 25 student sending countries to the United States, the report said.
This is not the first time that the Trump administration introduced policies to limit the stay of the foreign students. In July, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced that international students would not be allowed to stay in the country if they were only attending classes online.
“Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” the agency said in a release. “Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.” The announcement troubled many foreign students including dozens from Nepal.
Kumar Karki, managing director at the Landmark Education Consultancy, said frequent changes in rules could prompt Nepali students to choose other academic destinations. “Students want a hassle-free learning environment. They will go to other countries if the US fails to provide that,” he told the Post. He said those aspiring for the American colleges and universities might decide to go to Australia, the UK or Canada.
According to records at the No Objection Certificate Department under the Ministry of Education 33,037 students acquired the permits to study abroad during the last fiscal year. The number decreased by around a half as the government stopped issuing permits for over five months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, as many as 10,000 students have already been issued permits for Australia, and 550 for the US.