EducationUSA | Webinar on Student Visas with Consular Affairs


Good afternoon and thank you so much for
joining EducationUSA for our webinar series about student visas I’m thrilled
to be here with Laura Stein from the Department of Consular Affairs for those
of you who don’t know EducationUSA is a network of advising centers all
throughout the world we help promote U.S. higher education through a network
of advisers who are operating in a hundred and eighty countries with over
435 advising centers we have done several different interactives you may
have even seen Laura’s presentation targeted international students about
the student visa process but this is part of our new outreach series
specifically for higher education institutions EducationUSA is here to
help you expand your international recruitment strategies and expand campus
internationalization efforts I look forward to speaking primarily with Laura
today about the student visa process just to give you a little bit about her
background laura has worked in the visa office and the Bureau of Consular
Affairs at the Department of State since 2007 she is currently a visa policy
analyst in the office of field operations and serves as the primary
subject matter expert on student and exchange visitor visa policy and
procedure some of you may recognize Laura from the knapsack conference or at
our education USA forum this summer we’re so thrilled to have such a great
working relationship with consular affairs our staff in the field at
embassies and consulates work very closely with EducationUSA to make sure
students have the most current information about how to navigate the
student visa process so with that I’ll turn it over to Laura to guide you
through the student visa process and keep in mind we’ll be taking questions
throughout the series we’ll save all of the questions to the end but then we’ll
facilitate a Q&A at the end so thanks again for joining and Laura over to you
thanks Kelsey so I’m very happy to join you today and present and answer your
questions after the presentation okay next slide please
so this is just an overview of the topics I plan to talk about I’m going to
tell you first about the Bureau of Consular Affairs mission then we’ll look
at some student and exchange visitor visa issuance statistics then we’ll look
at the visa application process and then I’ll provide some updates on specific
issues including the accrual of unlawful presence and the presidential
proclamation and then last I’ll provide you with some website resources and
contact information next slide please so this is broadly our mission for the
Bureau of Consular Affairs when adjudicating visas national security is
our top priority and when adjudicating when adjudicating
visas every every prospective traveler to the US does undergo extensive
security screening and that’s because we must ensure that every applicant is
qualified and that they do not pose a threat to the country’s security and
that is for all purposes of travel now for applicants who aren’t qualified we
absolutely do want to facilitate their travel and we recognize that with
students and exchange visitors there are numerous benefits to them traveling here
those benefits include a positive effect on US foreign policy and the United
States image abroad we recognize that students who study here may later attain
positions of leadership in their own country and carry with them the positive
experiences they had while they’re here and we also recognize that there is a
positive impact on the US economy as well
international students contributed more than 42 billion dollars to the US
economy in 2017 and that statistics comes from the Department of Commerce
next slide please okay next one so this is a snapshot of
F-1 J-1 and m1 visas that were issued in the past for fiscal years with F-1 visas
you will notice that there was there was decreases in over the last
four I’m excuse me the last three fiscal years and that is attributable to the
November 2014 increase in student visa validity for Chinese citizens from one
year to five years now this does not mean that there are fewer Chinese
students studying in the US rather it means that they do not need to renew
their visas as frequently it’s important to note that visa issuance numbers are
not equal to the number of international students the U.S. is seeing for that we
would direct you to the Institute of International Education annual Open
Doors report and also to SCBP’s SEVIS by the numbers biannual report okay next
slide okay these are the number of f1 visas that we issued to the top ten
countries of nationality in fiscal year 2018 thirty-nine percent were issued to
Chinese and Indian citizens next slide and next slide okay so where to apply
students will usually apply at the US Embassy or consulate that is in their
home country but they may apply anywhere that offers visa services and this will
be most relevant for those students where there is no embassy or consulate
in their home country or where services have been limited or suspended and then
they will have to apply outside of their home country students may check the
embassy or consulate web site where they plan to apply or location specific
details including how to schedule their visa appointment how to pay the
application fee and whether there are any additional location specific
documents that may be required posts our consular sections rather must accept
these interview requests from third country nationals who are resident in
their consular districts and many will also schedule interviews for those
applicants who are not resident but physically
in their consular districts for example where I’m thinking here of students who
are seeking to renew their visas in Canada or Mexico it is a possibility but
students should carefully review the websites for those locations to
determine whether they would like to reapply there okay next slide please
so we do keep interview wait times for all of our embassies and consulates on
our website travel.state.gov these wait times are monitored and updated on a
weekly basis by all consular sections worldwide and we’re checking even if
there’s been no change from the prior week in terms of what drives wait times
its various factors that will include seasonal demand staffing for example
when a host country has limited how many consular officers we may have and then
also rapidly growing workloads can can affect how long the wait time is keeping
wait times in mind students are encouraged to apply as early as they can
to help facilitate that we ask that you please issue and send to them their
forms I-120 or DS-2019 as early as possible so they can go ahead and
schedule their interviews for F and M student visas we can issue up to 120
days before the program start date and with J-1 visas they can be issued at any
point after after the exchange visitor has presented their ds-2019 okay next
slide please so this slide is an overview overview of
the visa interview and how Sudanese applicants may demonstrate that they
qualify so during the visa interview the consular officer will be considering the
totality of the applicants circumstances in determining whether he or she is
qualified including the four factors that are listed on this slide so with
the first two who they are and what they want to do in the United States this is
essentially the student telling his or her story to the consular officer
and here the consular officer may ask why he or she has selected a particular
School in the United States what they plan to study and what they have been
doing in their home country leading up to the proposed course of study now to
be clear in asking these questions the consular officer is not second-guessing
the US schools decision to accept the student or questioning whether the
student qualified academically to be accepted by the school rather through
questions and interview the consular officer is assessing that the applicant
truly intends to be a bona fide student in the United States and in listening to
the student the consular officer is also evaluating the students ties to their
home country as students must establish intent to depart from the United States
at the conclusion of their study as well as following any authorized periods of
post-completion opt okay with the third factor how they will fund their
studies consular officers must be satisfied that the student has
sufficient funds to cover their expenses while here without the need to result to
unauthorized employment and here the applicant must demonstrate that they
have readily available funds to cover the first year of their program and that
funds will be available to pay for the remaining years of their program with
the fourth factor what they intend to do upon completion of their proposed
student activities the student must established to the satisfaction of the
consular officer their intent to depart from the United States and here again
the officer will be considering the students ties to their home country it
really is incumbent on student visa applicant to be able to walk up to the
interview window with the consular officer and explain these things in
terms of what schools can do to prepare students we ask that you direct them to
US government resources and this will help to steer them away from any non-us
government resources which may be providing inaccurate information and
I’ll also give you couple of resources at the end of these
slides okay next slide please okay so possible outcomes first outcome
would be visa approval and in fact most student visas are approved and visas
issued 74% of f-1 student visa applications were approved and visas
issued in fiscal year 2008 the other possibility would be a visa refusal when
a student visa is refused that will most often be under Section 214 B of the
Immigration and Nationality Act this section of law explicitly presumes that
every non-immigrant visa applicant is an intending immigrant and places the
burden of disproving this presumption on to the applicant consular officers
adjudicate each application individually to determine whether the applicant
qualifies in accordance with u.s. immigration laws and regulations student
applicants must further demonstrate that they meet the student visa requirements
including a residence abroad and no immediate intention of abandoning that
residence that they have the intention to depart from the United States upon
completion of studies and that they have sufficient funds to pursue the proposed
course of study now if an applicant is refused under Section 214 B he or she
may apply again and there is no limit on the number of times that you may reapply
a subsequent application may be approved and this may be because something in the
application excuse me something in the applicant situation has changed and they
now can establish they qualify or simply because the applicant was nervous the
first time he or she applied and is better able to express him or herself at
a subsequent interview student visa applications may also be refused under
section 221 G of the Immigration and Nationality Act and we refer to this as
administrative processing and I’ll be discussing that further on the next
slide and then applications may also be refused
under Section 212 a of the Immigration and Nationality Act this section of law
encompasses a wide array of visa ineligibilities to include drug
possession criminal acts and medical ineligibilities all applicants who are
found in eligible will receive a written document usually a letter from the
consular section at the conclusion of their interview which explains and cites
section of law under which the applicant is ineligible visa records are
confidential under Section 2 – 2 F of the Immigration and Nationality Act so
for that reason we are only able to discuss details of specific cases with
the visa applicant that means we wouldn’t be able to discuss the details
of the case with you as the designated school official or responsible officer alright next slide please
so some visa applications do require further administrative processing which
takes additional time after the visa interview this may include resolving
questions about the applicants eligibility or any other question the
consular officer must resolve to overcome the refusal under Section 221 G
of Immigration and Nationality Act timing for completion of administrative
processing varies on the basis of the individual circumstances for each case
that said we do our best to ensure that administrative processing is completed
before students program start dates but again keeping administrative processing
in mind applicants are encouraged to apply early to mitigate the impact of
any required administrative processing now for students who are refused under
Section 221 G it’s important that they keep listening to what the consular
officer is saying to them during the interview while this is a visa refusal
administrative processing may be followed by a visa issuance and an
approval so the applicant will receive further instructions at the interview
perhaps to provide additional information or documents or to wait
until the consular section contacts them applicants can also follow up with the
consular section on the status of their case but we do ask that they wait at
least 60 days from the interview date before before making that follow-up they
can also check online the status of their applications by returning to their
their visa application form and I’ll be providing a URL for that at the end of
these slides ok next slide please ok next one so on August 9th 2018 US
Citizenship and Immigration Services published a final policy memorandum on
how it will calculate unlawful presence for students and exchange visitors this
policy aligns with the administration’s goals to enforce immigration laws and
reduce the number of individuals who overstay their periods of admission in
the United States effective August 9th 2018 students and exchange visitors can
begin to accrue unlawful presence if they do not depart from the United
States at the conclusion of their studies including following periods of
authorized practical training or periods of authorized stay before and after
their programs so here I’m talking about the grace periods they can also begin to
approve unlawful presence if they do not maintain their status as students
meaning they stop attending school they stop engaging an authorized practical
training they stop participating in their exchange visitor program or they
engage in an activity that is not permitted
while in student or exchange visitor status students who accrue more than 180
days of unlawful presence may be subject to three or ten-year bars of admission
to the United States depending on how much unlawful presence they have accrued
and they may be found ineligible for visas under Section 212-a 9B1
of the Immigration and Nationality Act our guidance in the Foreign Affairs
manual was updated on August 9th and it is publicly available at the second link
that is on this slide in terms of what DSOs and our ROs can do with keeping
this new policy in mind please do ensure that SEVIS records are accurate and
correctly maintained and please ensure that your students and exchange visitors
also understand what activities they can and cannot engage in while they’re in
the United States meaning that they should not take any action that detracts
from their purpose of being a student or exchange visitor while here in the US
okay next slide please okay so prudential visa revocations the
Department of State or a US Embassy or consulate may prudential II revoke a
non-immigrant visa when we become aware of information including arrests that
calls into question whether an individual is still qualified to hold a
visa now not all arrests will result in visa
revocation we do consider the specific charges tied to the arrest and whether
charges whether those specific charges impact the continued eligibility of that
individual to hold a visa in accordance with U.S. immigration laws and
regulations when of these is prudential we revoked we will make a reasonable
effort to contact the visa holder to notify him or her by various forms of
communication for example by email by telephone or by letter the specific
method of contact will vary by country again visa records are confidential so
only the visa holder would be notified of visa revocation schools and program
sponsors are not notified so it would be incumbent on the exchange visitor or
student to notify his or her RO or DSL in terms of when Prudential revocations
take effect they are effective immediately upon departure
from the United States so this means that the individual would need to
reapply for a new visa in order to return to the United States and seek
entry with US Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry there is
no set timeframe for when when a visa holder must reapply following revocation
the individual determines when and if he or she would like to reapply okay so
when we talk about prudential visa revocations with schools
it is often regarding those that were revoked following DUI arrests so I’ll
focus now on that specifically the Department of State takes seriously
drunk driving driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated
DUI is both a public safety issue as well as evidence of possible visa in
eligibility in November of 2015 the visa office implemented a requirement the
consular officers at our embassies and consulates credential II revoke issued
to individuals subsequently arrested for DUI
unless that arrest has already been addressed within the context of a visa
application driving under the influence is indicative of possible visa and
eligibility for a physical or mental disorder with associated harmful
behavior which is section 212-a1a3 of the Immigration and Nationality Act
consular officers are required to refer any non-immigrant visa applicant with
one alcohol-related arrests in the last five years or two or more in the last 10
years to the panel physician for a medical examination to evaluate that
applicants medical eligibility for a visa previously there was no review of
DUI arrests subsequent to visa issuance until that individual applied again
which could be up to ten years later depending on how long their visa was
valid okay next slide so I’ll speak now about the presidential proclamation
certain Nationals of seven countries may be affected by
presidential proclamation in 9-6-4-5 and those countries are Iran
Libya North Korea Syria Venezuela Yemen and Somalia now with regard to FNM
student visas and J exchange visitor visas nationalities of only two
countries are impacted and those two countries are North Korea and Syria
individuals who may be affected by the proclamation should review our
up-to-date guidance on travel.state.gov the website includes guidance for
applicants who may be eligible for exceptions and would therefore not be
subject to travel restrictions under the proclamation and it also provides
guidance on waivers an individual who may be subject to the proclamation
should disclose during their interview any information that might qualify him
or her for an exception or for a waiver in coordination with consular section
management and following any required administrative processing the consular
officer will carefully review each case to determine first if the applicant is
affected by the proclamation and if so whether whether that application would
qualify for a waiver next slide please okay next one okay so there are various
websites available to to help students navigate the visa application process
and and to prepare to apply for their visas I’ve mentioned several times
already consular affairs website travel.state.gov this site whose links
to all embassy and consulate websites as well as all information about applying
for a visa for prospective students we also recommend EducationUSA’s website
for information on the learning opportunities available in the United
States and then J-1 visa dot state.gov is the Bureau of Educational and
Cultural Affairs website detailing each of the 15 exchange visitor program
category including the various student scholar categories as well as
information on other topics including program sponsor designation and then I
also always like to highlights CBP’s study in the state’s website as an
additional excellent resource next slide okay contact information students who
have already applied but have follow-up questions may contact the Embassy or
consulate where they applied and contact information for each location is
accessible from travel.state.gov for general questions students and school
officials may contact the National Visa Center at the number that is listed on
this slide Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 12:00
midnight and then students whose applications are refused under section
221-g of the immigration Nationality Act for administrative processing they can
check the status of their application using visa status check by returning to
their DS-160 online application at the URL link that is at the bottom of this
slide next slide and we’re now ready to take any questions that you have
wonderful thank you so much Laura I mean that information was incredibly
valuable and hopefully the us institutions who turned in are able to
better understand how the process works how they can engage with consular and
also with EducationUSA our advisors in the field are always happy to connect
both with students and with US institutions about the entire student
application process and the visa process is of course an important part of that
so I would just encourage all of those all those of you who are still tuned in
please feel free to ask any questions that you have and I’ll direct those to
Laura about student visas certainly also happy to answer any questions about
education USA resources more broadly so looking here it seems like we have some
questions in the queue so here’s one if a student obtains a visa for one
University but then later transfers to another University does that require a
new visa so actually it does not so for example a
student who who was issued a visa let’s say it was valid for five years if they
enter the U.S. they start attending to school that the visa was issued for but
they later transferred the visa remains valid so they don’t have to go and apply
for a new visa as long as that visa is still valid now when they enter the
United States they of course should have with them an I-20 that you know was
issued to them by their by their new school and present that at the port of
entry along with their so Valley okay that’s really helpful I know something
that we’ve been talking a lot about is articulation agreements that exists
between community colleges and four-year institutions and a lot of international
students are considering starting at a community college and then transferring
to a four-year institution and that’s worked out really well for a lot of
students so it’s helpful I think in that context to understand all right thank
you for that all right here’s another question what is the timeframe schools
should tell their prospective students to begin the visa process so as I said
when I was giving the presentation we do want students to apply as early as
possible keeping administrative processing in mind keeping in mind
longer wait times particularly in the summer particularly at the end of summer
student wait times can grow so we want you to apply as early as possible a
student visa can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the program start
date so students would want to keep that in mind as well when deciding when they
want to look to apply for their visas okay that’s really helpful good to keep
in mind and good to communicate with your students as they go through the
application process so here’s the third question after visa approval we had a
student cut all communication with the college we ended up terminating the
initial I-20 but the student was still admitted at the point of entry and of
course they disappeared is there anything else we could have
besides terminate the I-20 so from the institution of you so a couple of things
are in play here I would say this would probably be the question that would be
better addressed to s CBP and maybe to Customs and Border Protection as well
they’re not with us today I don’t see that there’s any other
action unfortunately that the school could have taken at the port of entry
they do have access to that information when a school terminates an I-20 it is
still at the discretion of CBP whether whether to admit that student
again on okay thank you so what are some tips that universities can provide the
students when preparing for their visa interview I can’t say it enough
apply early early and you know do do direct them to to travel.state.gov and
the other US government websites for information if there’s any outreach that
may be happening at the counselor at the consular embassy where they plan to
apply they would also learn that information by by by connecting with
them as year tops that they plan to apply to so again
official US government sources versus non US government sources which may
provide inaccurate information students I think that’s really good advice and
you know engagement with an education can help make sure that they have access
to the most current information and understand the timeline and then also
focus on the whole of application so it’s great to have that sort of
collaboration so if a student visa is revoked due to a DUI as he or she
permitted to remain in the United States for the duration of his or her status so
the the visa really only becomes an issue when they depart the United States
so when they seek to re-enter obviously they’ll need to apply for a new visa if
the beast has been revoked I’ll follow DUI that said of course you know ice ice
the Immigration and Customs Enforcement is responsible for monitoring those
students in the United States that’s not to say that they would necessarily take
any action against the student but that should be kept in mind
absolutely what information can you provide five universities if a student
has been accepted to a university but was denied a visa so you talked a little
bit about this but of course it’s a popular coin do any other so students
who have been denied when they initially apply may reapply they may subsequently
be approved if something in their situation has changed if there’s some
information they they did not disclose or share with the consular officer at
the first interview they may be able to establish that they qualify at a
subsequent interview and then I think also nerves can play a big role in in
the visa interview process you know coming in and talking to a US government
official can can be daunting so you know if they’ve gone through the experience
once simply reapplying maybe being less nervous the second time around they may
ultimately be approved from a previous question on visas and I twice if the
student leaves the country and waits longer than 60 days to transfer can he
or she still just get a new I-20 and pay a new SEVIS fee to attend a school
without applying for a new visa as long as the visa is still valid so if the
students visa is still valid they can still use that visa to apply for entry
at a U.S. port of entry if the visa has expired
then they would need than they would need a new visa so we’re talking here
about whether the student is admissible if they still have a valid visa they
would eat for a new one but CBP would determine
whether that student should be admitted to the United States if someone
participates in an exchange program in the United States on the J-1 visa and
wants to study at a U.S. University do they have to spend two
years in their home country before they can apply for an F1 visa so here the
question is relating to the two-year rule that some former exchange visitors
are subject to where they have to the two-year home country physical presence
requirement where they may need to be outside of the United States for two
years it’s only if they are applying for visas in certain classes including
immigrant visas H-1b visas the F1 visa is not one of the visas where they would
have to wait the two years before applying this is kind of a weedy topic
section 212 e of the Immigration and Nationality Act is to your home country
physical presence requirement so I would direct you to travel.state.gov we have a
whole series of web pages devoted to this topic where you can learn more
about it okay that’s really helpful you know so we’re here live at the Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs and so you know we see a lot of our alumni of
US government exchange programs then go on to study in the United States which
of course we encourage and are so happy to see them come back but of course very
important that they’re following all of the regulations their visa so that was
helpful to understand that context and would encourage institutions to do some
additional research as Laura mentioned alright next question do students have
to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in English in order to
receive a visa to study with an intensive English program in the United
States so we with student visa applicants we are looking at their I-20
in terms of whether or not English is required for their program of study so a
program of study where the I-20 indicates that English is required we
would generally expect to be able to to converse with the
applicant in English now for an intensive English program assuming their
I-20 does not reflect that English is required then we wouldn’t have that same
that same expectation that the student be proficient in English and able to next question should we advise current
students on preparing for an F1 visa renewal application differently
than F1 students for other countries so I think referring to the presidential
proclamation okay so as I said during the during the presentation with regard
to the proclamation its Nationals only two countries for whom issuance of F1
and J1 visas have been limited and those are North Korea and Syria so Iran
Nationals of Iran are not impacted with regard to student and exchange visitor
visas as I said for all applicants we urge we urge students to apply as early
as possible for renewals although of course you can’t apply from the United
States you can’t simply mail in your passport see could be as a renewal
students could however go ahead and schedule their visa interview while
they’re here in the United States so that they’ll be prepared to to go ahead
and apply immediately once they depart okay thank you and I think it’s
important that institutions remember that distinction if a student is bringing a dependent
with them to the United States does the dependent need their own visa yes
so for all F M and J programs be the designated school official or
responsible official responsible officer should be giving the any spouses or
children their own form I-20 or DS-2019 which will allow them to to apply for
their visas yes so they do need visas and they will need their own forms I-20
or DS-2019 – note all right it looks like we just
one more question how can small lesser-known institutions such as
community colleges help their prospective students be successful in
the visa application process I think really everything we’ve already covered
in this presentation really it remains the same I would highlight that we we
adjudicate each application and each applicant on the basis of their own
individual merits so we’re not adjudicating on the basis of the school
that the applicant is selected whether it’s a small school or a community
college as compared to a large college or a large university rather ww are adjudicating on on the basis of the applicants qualifications so as we as we
said do you refer them to our US government resources for more
information and urge them to apply early please okay thank you so much Lara again
for answering these questions and for helping provide really valuable insight
for our institutions before we sign off to any sort of closing comments or any
really I don’t thank you very much for having me today
I appreciated the opportunity to present and to answer your questions okay thank
you so much and thank you so much to all of you we’re trying more and more to
engage u.s. higher education institutions into our international
student mobility efforts you’re incredibly important in helping bring
students here to the United States I encourage you to stay involved with
EducationUSA check our EducationUSA social media pages and the HEI monthly
newsletter for information on the next EducationUSA webinar also we have
resources to help promote your own schools recruitment you can check our
website at EducationUSA.state.gov learn more about our global guide the
open doors numbers and different strategies for helping increase your
international student recruitment thank you so much again for joining us and
thank you so much Laura we hope to see you next time here with EducationUSA

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