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Students’ Education, Livelihoods Hit: Decoding US F-1 Visa Rules  

The latest restrictions on F-1 student visa in the US shows foreign students are “expendable”, says Deep Pal.

3 min read

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The latest F-1 visa restrictions, imposed by the United States government, has put foreign students in the country in a fix. The US has said that it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all of their classes are moved online in the fall season. This move – by the US Immigration and Custom Enforcement – will impact more than an estimated 2,00,000 Indian students pursuing higher education in the US.

Not only will this affect their education, but also their livelihood in most cases, points out Deep Pal, who held the F-1 visa for seven years between 2012 and 2019. Pal pursued his Masters in the country, followed by PhD in University of Washington.

Speaking to The Quint, Pal who is currently a Non-Resident Fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR), said that there is also looming uncertainty over whether these students will complete their courses or not.

“International students are simply given one month to figure their lives out. The new rules will definitely mess up the rules of degree completion. There is no way to know how long this rule will stay in place, or there is also no way to know if it will be expanded.”
Deep Pal

The only way F-1 visa holders can stay in the US and continue their studies is if their university starts offering a hybrid method of teaching, ie, a combination of both online and in-person classes.

In case the students fail to comply with the new norms, they will face deportation. They may also face future bans on entry into the US.

“How are the students going to return back home? There are some flights, not too many of them. It is very difficult to get tickets to any of these flights. It is very expensive and there is no answer about how these additional costs are going to be mitigated.”
Deep Pal

The Other Challenges Of Online Learning

Pal also explained online lessons will further take a toll on the students as many of them may not be able to access study materials and resources, not to mention time zones.

For example, if a student has left US to return home to China, they will not be able to access Google products used by the class, as it is banned in their country.

“Many international students may have issues with access to internet available consistently. Think of time-zones. Students in India have to stay up at midnight to be able to participate in the online classes and discussions online.”
Deep Pal

Will Doctoral Students Be Paid Stipends?

Many of the graduate and doctoral degree students are older, and are likely to face a stronger impact. This is also because they have uprooted their lives in other countries, in some cases with their partners and even kids to make this process work, Pal explains.

“Think of graduates who survive on the stipend that they are given, while they are in the US and while they are in college campuses. If they are sent back home, will they still be paid for working from half the world away.”
Deep Pal

However, he points out that more than anything, the US’s latest visa norm signals that international students are “expendable”.

“Data shows that international students have contributed 40 billion dollars to the US economy in 2019. But the new rule shows that it does not really matter and that they are subject to the whims and fancies of the country,” he said.

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