Yale opposes proposed changes to student visa rules

Yale University strongly opposes a federal proposal to end the longstanding “duration of status” visa policy that allows international students to stay in the United States until they complete their degrees.

In late September, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a regulation that would set fixed terms of two or four years for student visas, meaning students would need to apply for extensions if their course of study exceeds those periods — the case for Yale’s Ph.D. programs. The proposed policy change would severely harm Yale’s international students and scholars, and would damage the university’s research mission, Yale argued in a comment letter submitted to DHS Oct. 26.

As of fall 2019, 3,014 international students from 120 different countries were enrolled at Yale, representing 22% of the university’s total enrollment. Thirty-seven percent of Yale international students are in Ph.D. programs.

We cannot allow this ill-considered and damaging proposal to move forward unchallenged,” Yale President Peter Salovey said. “Yale is unwavering in its commitment to welcoming and supporting a vibrant community of international students and researchers whose presence enriches the fabric of our campus community and whose work produces exciting discoveries across disciplines and expands our understanding of the world.” 

The comment letter identifies a series of flaws in the proposed rule. It asserts that the proposal, purportedly intended to strengthen oversight of visa recipients, is redundant because existing programs and procedures are adequate to ensure compliance with regulations. 

The proposed two- or four-year terms for visa recipients would harm students across several schools at Yale, including Ph.D. students, who typically require about six years to complete doctorates at Yale, imposing arbitrary administrative hurdles and potentially hefty fees on students and researchers who need to extend their stays, the letter states. Those barriers would hinder Ph.D. students’ progress toward earning their degrees, interrupt important research at Yale, and inappropriately give DHS a role in assessing the academic progress of graduate students, the letter asserts.

The comment letter argues that these burdens would undermine the United States’ status as a global leader in science, technology, and innovation by discouraging talented students and researchers from coming to Yale and to the country’s other major research universities. The proposal also would negatively affect practical training programs in fields such as architecture, the arts, medicine, and public health, the letter states.

Our International students and researchers are critically important to the United States and to Yale, and we should be welcoming them with open arms, not unnecessarily burdening them with administrative red tape,” said Vice President for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis. “If implemented, this misguided proposal will make extraordinary students and scholars around the globe think twice before committing their talents to universities in the United States, which would diminish our campus community and harm our country’s status as a global leader in research and innovation.”

The letter points out that the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has benefitted greatly from the talents and expertise of foreign-born students, physicians, and researchers working to address and overcome the public health crisis. 

For decades, the United States has prided itself on being a welcoming place for international students and scholars, who benefit our communities professionally and personally,” said Ann Kuhlman, executive director of Yale’s Office of International Students and Scholars. “This proposed rule sends a different message: one meant to discourage students and scholars from coming to the United States. It would add unnecessary steps that are costly, confusing, time-consuming and could ultimately impede the goals of our international students and scholars.”

In addition to opposing this proposed rule, Yale is planning to join an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit challenging two federal rules announced on Oct. 8 that are designed to make the H-1B “specialty worker” visa program much more difficult to use. The rules would limit eligibility by redefining what constitutes a specialty occupation, and are designed to discourage the use of the program by increasing the wage levels required for H-1B visa holders.

Yale and other research universities use H-1B visas for postdoctoral fellows and associate research scientists, as well as faculty who are applying for permanent residency. H-1B visas also provide international graduate students an avenue for staying in the country and finding work once they complete their educations.

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326