Trump's study visa limits could affect Samoans

By Sapeer Mayron 28 September 2020, 12:00PM

Samoan students hoping to study in the United States might be limited to just two-year visas, with the Trump administration entertaining new limitations should it win a second term.

In a statement released this week, the Department of Homeland Security said the move would reduce fraud, enhance national security and “encourage program compliance.”

Samoa is among a list of countries with high overstay rates in the U.S., which the D.H.S. considers to be over 10 per cent for students and exchange visitors. 

Other Pacific Island countries on the list are Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu. 

Students who want to stay longer than two years would have to seek an exemption or even apply for a new visa, which most programmes would require.

Ken Cuccinelli, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security said this amendment is “critical” in strengthening the country’s immigration laws.

“Amending the relevant regulations is critical in improving programme oversight mechanisms; preventing foreign adversaries from exploiting the country’s education environment; and properly enforcing and strengthening U.S. immigration laws,” he said. 

Currently, the laws allow for students to remain in the U.S. for as long as they have documentation that proves they are studying towards a degree.

The Trump Administration says this undetermined length of time is a national security risk. 

Other country’s students, who are not in the over-stayer risk category, would be limited to just four-year visas, even if their programme is longer than that. 

The proposed change is up for public discussion for the next month, and if passed may not be enacted until next year so could be reversed if a new President is elected. 

Currently, there are more than a million international students in the U.S., and they are estimated to have a US$41 billion economic impact and account for 5.5 percent of all students enrolled in higher education in the country. 

The Association of International Educators Executive Director Esther Brimmer said the policy is complicated and burdensome.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, she said this will create uncertainty for international students and exchange visitors. 

“If finalized, this rule would also make it more difficult for international students and scholars to maintain their legal status in the United States and make it far more difficult for international educators to administer,” she said.

“Sadly, this proposal sends another message to immigrants, and in particular international students and exchange visitors, that their exceptional talent, work ethic, diverse perspectives, and economic contributions are not welcome in the United States.”


Samoans abroad
By Sapeer Mayron 28 September 2020, 12:00PM

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