As the federal government introduces more legislation regarding international students and scholars, Yale officials are working to keep students informed.
Though Yale Federal Relations Officer Richard Jacob said national decisions are far from definite, the Bush administration has been working on a plan to limit the areas of study in which international students and scholars can work. Jacob said the federal government wants to ensure that people who may be security risks are not being trained in such potentially dangerous areas as microbiology or engineering, and added that it is unclear how any changes might affect Yale.
Although the federal meetings have been closed so far, Jacob said he is expecting the Bush administration to release information in the next few weeks. He said the report may discuss ways to address federal concerns about some international students.
“[The administration is worried that] coursework could give them knowledge and skills that somebody who had bad intentions could use later on,” Jacob said.
Jacob said Yale believes that educating international students is important because education imparts democratic values. Yale is trying to make sure the new laws are not too restrictive, he added.
“The university community has said repeatedly that we agree first of all that having international students here in the country is valuable,” Jacob said. “We have through various venues tried to communicate with the Office of Science and Technology Policy to steer this in a way that makes sense. We’re hoping that whatever does come out, it will be in enough of a draft form that colleges and universities will be able to have input in final policy.”
Ann Kuhlman, the director of Yale’s Office of International Students and Scholars, said one of the new laws that Congress has passed bars students from returning to the United States if they are denied a visa while in Mexico or Canada. Formerly, people could automatically revalidate their visas if they were in the contiguous country for less than 30 days.
“If you apply for a new F or J visa, you must receive a valid new visa before being able to re-enter the U.S.,” Kuhlman said. “If your application for a new visa is denied, you will likely have to leave Canada [for example] and return to your home country to obtain a new visa in order to return to the U.S. Also, if you apply for a visa and are subject to a security clearance that may require 20 days to obtain, you will not be able to return to the U.S. under the provisions of automatic revalidation.”
Kuhlman said this policy likely will not affect many people, but added that students or scholars occasionally try to renew their visas in Canada if they are traveling and will not have time to obtain a new visa in their home country.
“If you’ve applied for a visa and didn’t get it, you can’t automatically re-enter under that provision, so you’re sort of stuck outside the U.S.,” Kuhlman said. “It doesn’t affect a lot of people, many at all. There are occasionally students or post-docs who would take advantage of that usually because they’re traveling and don’t have time to get that visa while they’re away.”
Another new law requires people who are in the United States on a tourist visa and decide to study to wait until their student visa is approved before beginning coursework, Kuhlman said.
“Previously someone who came on a tourist visa and was admitted to university or college after they got there, they would apply to the [Immigration and Naturalization Service] to change their status and they’d go ahead and begin school,” Kuhlman said.
It can take months to gain approval for a student visa, she said. But in a press release the INS said it would try to review such applications within 30 days.
Kuhlman said she has not heard any concerns from current students about this new provision, and Jacob said Yale will work to make sure that students are up to date on their paperwork so they can comply with this provision.
“The key thing is to make sure that individual students are prepared,” Jacob said. “We don’t use tourist visas very often for students. We may use them on an occasional basis where a student for one reason or another has not yet applied for a student visa and it’s coming up on the start of the term and the student needs to get into the country quickly.”