May 3, 2002

New INS Visa Regulations May Affect Students

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The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has proposed new regulations regarding visas given to non-immigrants that will travel to the United States. Many of these regulations might affect international students who plan on attending school in the U.S.

The INS decided to make these changes to strengthen homeland security and to make sure that people receive the proper security clearances before they enter the U.S.

“These new rules strike the appropriate balance between INS’ mission to ensure that our nation’s immigration laws are followed and stop illegal immigration and our desire to welcome legitimate visitors to the United States,” said INS Commissioner James Ziglar in a press release. “While we recognize that the overwhelming majority of people who come to the United States as visitors are honest and law abiding, the events of Sept. 11 remind us that there will always be those who seek to cause us harm.”

However, some people believe that it may affect foreign students’ decisions to study in the U.S.

“Some may interpret the new regulations and some reports in the media [in a way] that international students will think that the U.S. is less friendly to them than it once was,” said Brendan O’Brien, director of the International Students and Scholars Office.


When people from other countries want to visit the U.S., they can apply for a tourist’s visa, known as a B-2 visa, which is the visa most international students use to come to the country to visit educational institutions. Currently, the minimum admission period for international students who stay in the United States with a B-2 visa is six months.

Foreigners can also apply for the B-1 visa, which covers trips regarding business.

With the proposed changes, non-immigrant visitors would have to consult with an INS Immigration Inspector about the nature of their trips and the officials would determine how long certain people can stay in the U.S. to complete their tasks. The typical admission period would be 30 days.

Another change in the regulations would be the maximum amount of time people can stay in the United States with a B-2 visa. The maximum amount of time would be changed from one year to six months. If people wanted to use their visas to stay longer than the maximum, then they would have to talk to INS officials, though the new proposals also limit the reasons for extensions.

To deal with people who are issued with a final order of removal, the INS is making rules that will make the people surrender within 30 days a, “legal obligation.” If they do not, then they will not receive, “discretionary relief” such as asylum or change in status while they stay in the U.S. and for ten years after they leave the country.

These proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register and officials are listening to public responses to the possible changes.

However, one interim rule involving international students isn’t a proposal — it will be implemented. If students apply for B visitor status by applying for business visitor or tourist visas, they will have to state that they plan to change to student status at the time of their admission. Students will also have to be given student status before they can begin school in the U.S. Currently, students can begin studying in the U.S. while waiting for student status. This rule will take effect when it is published in the Federal Register.

INS has also implemented a, “target processing time” of 30 days for status changes to help international students.

There has been concern about the possible effects the changes in visa regulation will affect international students.

“To the best of my knowledge, students continue to want to come to Cornell,” O’Brien said. “We haven’t seen any downturn due to immigration regulations so far. There are more than 3,000 international students at Cornell and I think that [the international students] make a great contribution to Cornell and other colleges.”

“This will definitely affect the international students who want to study in the U.S. in a negative way in that they won’t be able to attend American universities as so desired [since they might be affected by the changes to visa regulation],” said Fannie Cyriaque ’03. “But in my personal opinion, I think that the new rules involving visas will help build attendance of other international universities and will help students to attend and institutions in their own countries. This can have a positive impact such that it can help to build education in other nations.”

O’Brien also commented on the international students that come to the U.S. for school.

“A small number, just a few have come here to harm the U.S. and we have to keep that in mind,” he added. “I think that people should realize that international students only make up about one percent of immigrants coming to the United States. Cornell will apply to all federal regulations.”

Cyriaque commented on measures that the U.S. and other countries have implemented to increase national security.

“The United States has to think about protection right now. It has to think of the well being of its citizens. After Sept. 11, what country wouldn’t crack down on visa regulations?” she said.

Archived article by Kelly Samuels