Three immigration lawyers urged foreign students to keep good records of their visa documents and activities to avoid legal problems Thursday night during a seminar on visa policy. Many international students, including some at Yale, are facing strict visa regulations enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The seminar, sponsored by the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale, or ACSSY, featured immigration lawyers Gabriel Selig, Leon Wildes and his son Michael Wildes. The three attorneys explained new immigration guidelines that were put in place this year as three incoming Yale freshmen and several returning students were unable to enter the United States.
The speakers also provided an overview of employment issues and visa policy.
Michael Wildes said government agents pay particular attention to male students from Middle Eastern countries, as well as those with interests in security-sensitive fields such as microbiology. Students from Pakistan and Malaysia said they experienced particular difficulty with the system.
To enter the United States, students and others applying for visas must both obtain approval from an American consul and then pass through inspection at the physical border itself. Leon Wildes said the “double-check” system has been used more frequently since Sept. 11, 2001.
Consuls’ decisions are a critical step in application for a visa, but are not subject to review by a higher government body, speakers said. Since students must declare their interest in the United States in their visa applications, the lawyers urged students to maintain good evidence of their reasons for studying here. They also emphasized the importance of students keeping visa documents up to date.
“It’s ugly if you get caught outside America and a consul challenges you,” Michael Wildes said.
The speakers also discussed employment issues for foreigners, both those who are in the United States on student visas and those who have H-1B visas. The latter category is given to professional workers, often recent university graduates training in a specific field, for a maximum of six years of uninterrupted stay.
“H-1B visas are affected in particular by economic changes in the U.S.,” Selig said. Michael Wildes said he expected the government to issue fewer H-1B visas by 2004.
Michael Wildes warned the visa system could become tighter in the future.
“God forbid we get attacked again and the Immigration Service freezes itself — things could get worse,” Michael Wildes said.
Following the seminar, many audience members stayed in order to address more specific questions with the panelists.
Ke Li GRD ’05, president of the ACSSY, was also pleased with the seminar. He said he has heard many stories about recent visa problems and immigration is one of the main issues on which the group conducts seminars.
“It’s truly helpful for Chinese and other international students,” Li said.