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Proposal to Replace Duration of Status

Updated October 12, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a regulation to replace the current “duration of status” (D/S) policy for international students (F visa), exchange visitors (J visa), representatives of foreign information media (I visa), and their dependents. The proposed policy would set a specific expiration date for their authorized period of stay. If the proposal becomes final, F and J visa holders would be required to file an extension with USCIS and complete biometrics screening (instead of an I-20/DS-2019 extension through SEVIS with their current institution) in the event they need more time to complete their program.

The proposed policy is an uninvited change to the duration of status regulations as it might impact the educational experience of international students and scholars in the U.S. and create significant compliance and administrative responsibilities for their host institutions and program sponsors. OISS is following guidance from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, who is coordinating efforts nationally to advocate against the implementation of this complicated and burdensome policy proposal. The NAFSA duration of status page provides more information on advocacy efforts and ways you can get involved, including guidance on how to submit public comment to DHS. Public comments on the proposed policy can be submitted until October 26, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Under the proposed policy, international students and scholars would be admitted for the length of time indicated by the program end date noted on their Form I-20 or DS-2019 with the following admission periods:

F-1 and J-1 visas holders: Most F-1 and J-1s and their dependents would be admitted for up to the length of the program, including periods of practical training, not to exceed four years, plus a 30-day grace period. The following criteria, however, would limit admissions of up to two years:

  • Those born in or are citizens of countries listed on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List.
  • Citizens of countries where there is a 10% or more overstay rate for students and exchange visitors.
  • U.S. national interest. "If the DHS Secretary determines that U.S. national interests warrant limiting admission to a 2-year maximum period in certain circumstances, then it would publish an FRN to give the public advance notice of such circumstance.”
  • Those attending unaccredited institutions (F-1 only) or
  • Institutions not in good standing with not enrolled in E-Verify; and
  • Those enrolled in language training programs.

If the proposal is finalized, it would also result in a change to current policies related to unlawful presence for F, J and I visa holders. The proposed policy would make F, J and I visa holders subject to the accrual of unlawful presence should they fail to maintain their status or overstay their period of admission in the U.S. Currently, F, J and I visa holders only start to accrue unlawful presence after an immigration judge determines a status violation, or USCIS determines a status violation in the adjudication of an application/petition.

In addition to the removal of the duration of status (D/S), the proposal also seeks to make the following changes:

  • Reducing the F-1 "grace period" from 60 days to 30 days.
  • Limit on aggregate ESL study. F-1 students in a language training program would be restricted to a lifetime aggregate of 24 months of language study, which would include breaks and an annual vacation.
  • Limit on "reverse matriculation" by F-1 students. "An F-1 student who has completed a program at one educational level would be allowed to change to a lower educational level one time while in F-1 status."
  • Limit on new F-1 programs at the same educational level. Any student who has completed a program at one educational level would be allowed to change to another program at the same educational level no more than two additional times while in F-1 status, for a total of three programs for the lifetime of the student.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on September 25, 2020.

OISS continues to monitor the situation very closely and will provide updates and guidance to UD international students and scholars as new information becomes available. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact OISS at any time.