In an era when universities across the United States are encouraging international students and scholars to study and teach at their institutions, the federal government is ironing out a policy that creates more barriers for foreigners.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service is expected to release finalized regulations early this summer that will require all international students and scholars studying in the United States to pay a new $95 fee before they receive their visas to enter the country.
While Yale officials said they have not discussed if the University should pay this new fee for students with financial need, international education advisors said the new fee will present difficulties for foreign students.
“If they do go forward it’s really just going to create havoc for students,” said Ann Kuhlman, Yale’s director of the Office of International Students. “Absolute havoc.”
The INS fee — mandated by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act to fund the computerization of the government’s immigrant tracking system — will likely be implemented this summer, INS spokeswoman Eyleen Schmidt said. Students and scholars visiting the United States for college and foreign-language programs will have to pay a one-time $95 fee before they can get their visas.
Earlier this year, Yale announced a policy to admit international students without regard to need and to fully meet their financial needs — equalizing opportunities for international students with those of domestic students. The University has not discussed the new fee, said Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer.
Kuhlman said she has not yet talked about the impending fee with University-wide administrators because her office is waiting to see the details of the final regulations. The fee will affect between 700 and 800 undergraduate and graduate students as well as visiting professors each year at Yale, Kuhlman said. She added she thought Yale would consider footing the bill for students with financial need.
“It’s hard to imagine that we would let a $95 fee prevent someone from coming from Yale,” Kuhlman said.
The legislation does not prohibit a third party, such as Yale, from paying this fee on behalf of particular students, Schmidt said.
Current international students said that a $95 fee could be a strong deterrent for students seeking to study in the United States.
Nana Akua Asafu-Agyei ’02 from Ghana said $95 will be a large cost to some students from developing countries.
“[In Ghana], you could rent an apartment and live for a month on $95,” Asafu-Agyei said.
Kuhlman said she worries about the effect of the new fee and the trend it presents.
“We’re seeing competition from England and Australia,” she said. “At a time when they are encouraging international students, we’re creating additional barriers.”
Other questions loom for international students. Because the INS has not yet released the regulations, the specific details are unclear, Kuhlman said. She was not sure whether already enrolled students would have to pay the fee or whether the fee would apply to Canadian students, the only group of international students that does not need visas to study in the United States.
Members of the American Council on Education have been lobbying the INS to change the planned regulations because they are concerned about the timing of the fee and how students would be able to pay it.
Students will be able to submit funds directly to the INS over the Web on their credit cards or they can send in a U.S. deposit from a bank. Many students in developing countries do not have access to these methods of payment, said Barbara Turlington, ACE’s director of international education.
Turlington also worries that there will not be time this summer for students to get their fees in before school starts. The regulations may not be released until July.
Schmidt said the INS would allow students extra time to pay if the regulations are not released until late in the summer.
In the meantime, administrators and international students are waiting eagerly to see what exactly these regulations will mean for them.
“What we’re trying to do is get visa documents out to students as quickly as we can and encouraging them to get their visas in as quickly as they can,” Kuhlman said.