Universities Disturbed by Visa Delays

Published: 09/20/2019

Source: http://bit.ly/2kWZYgK

University leaders are calling on Congress and the Trump administration to address significantly increased delays and disruptions in visa processing for international students and scholars. Among their concerns are holdups in “administrative processing,” entailing additional background checks by the State Department. They have also called out delays impacting the H-1B visa and Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs, which are two of the main mechanisms that foreign STEM workers use to secure U.S. employment.

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Universities argue that mounting uncertainty is hurting their ability to attract and retain international students and faculty. For its part, Congress has begun to take an interest in the issue, with lawmakers asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to account for and ameliorate delays.

Universities raising issue with Congress

Letters sent to Congress earlier this year by coalitions of universities offer further details on the extent and consequences of visa delays.

In May, 29 leaders of higher education institutions in New Jersey sent a letter to Congress concerning the “disturbing increase in the number — and length — of impediments put in the path of our international students, faculty, and staff.” The leaders of 30 universities and colleges in Michigan sent a similar letter to Congress in June.

Both letters emphasize the disruptiveness of the administrative processing delays at the State Department. They note applicants are “generally not provided with any explanations, nor are they told how long the additional processing may last.” The letters report that OPT processing times have increased from a previous maximum of 3 months to between 3.5 and 5.5 months, causing students to delay or miss employment opportunities. They also cite a “staggering” doubling in the number of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) by DHS relating to H1-B visas between the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2017.

The letters also cite a January policy brief by the American Immigration Lawyers Association that stated processing delays for all visas have reached a “crisis level” under the Trump administration. The association found the average case processing time by DHS has increased nearly 50% over the past two fiscal years and that the net backlog of cases had increased to about 2.3 million at the end of fiscal year 2017, more than double the previous year.

Source: http://bit.ly/2kWZYgK

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