Foreign Students Falling Into ‘Black Hole’ of US Visa Delays

February 19, 2020by Hannah Leone, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
US-NEWS-CMP-ILL-STUDENT-VISAS-TB

A University of Illinois graduate student from China applied in May for a visa renewal, a process that typically concludes within weeks.

But the application went into “administrative processing,” and was still in limbo when fall classes started, forcing the student to withdraw from the fall semester. By the spring semester, there was still no resolution, prompting the student to withdraw again.

Such delays by the U.S. State Department in processing visas for international students in American universities have been a growing problem nationwide, said Paul Weinberger, the university system’s director of federal relations.

“This student has been waiting nine months to be done with administrative processing,” he said. “At that point, it really becomes a black hole. It becomes impossible to get information. … The student just really has to wait and hope.”

Citing long waits, denials and visa cancellations that take away from teaching time and academic progress, presidents and chancellors from nearly 30 colleges and universities in Illinois are pushing for lawmakers to do more to help international students and scholars who face new obstacles tied to immigration policy.

“International students and visitors enrich the academic experience for all students, while contributing to Illinois’ economy and competitiveness,” University of Illinois President Tim Killeen said in a statement Monday. “As part of our mission of driving innovation and economic growth in Illinois, we are committed to bringing the best and the brightest from around the world to our state.”

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has the fifth-largest population of international students in the country, according to the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange. More than 15,000 are enrolled in the university system, including the Chicago campus, according to university data.

Along with heads of other public and private universities, Killeen signed a letter to the state’s congressional delegation conveying “concern about changes in immigration policy and procedures that undermine the ability of our institutions — and the state of Illinois — to continue benefiting from the important skills and contributions of international students and scholars.” Leaders of DePaul, Loyola, Northwestern and Western, Eastern and Southern Illinois universities also signed.

The letter urges lawmakers specifically to consider expanding so-called dual intent to student visas, which would leave open the prospect of the students later seeking permanent U.S. residency. That way, the letter said, international students don’t risk denial for failure to prove they intend to return to their home countries.

“In the longer term, we look forward to working with you to enact comprehensive immigration reform that addresses these and other priorities,” the letter adds.

Last year, more than 53,000 international students went to colleges and universities in Illinois, contributing $1.9 billion to the state’s economy, according to the Open Doors report.

Recently, university officials across Illinois have noticed a “significant increase in obstacles” facing these students, according to the letter. The “systemic” delays, paired with uncertainty about the U.S. immigration system, are hurting efforts to recruit and retain “international talent” nationwide, the leaders wrote.

Both entry visas and temporary work visas have been increasingly delayed or denied, according to the letter, and some international students have had visas revoked or canceled with no notice and scant explanation.

“While we appreciate the need for vetting of international visitors, this situation creates tremendous uncertainty and difficulty for universities,” the letter states.

Fraser Turner, director of global initiatives at Loyola University Chicago, said in a statement Monday: “Loyola University Chicago does not waver in its support of these student and scholar groups and are alarmed by policy and procedural changes in the U.S. immigration system that make it more challenging for international populations to teach or study in our classrooms.”

Institutions in Illinois have also been affected by the quadrupling in denial rates for the H-1B work visas in recent years. The denial rate for H-1B visas, which fluctuated between 5% and 8% from 2010 to 2015, climbed to 24% in 2018 and 32% in the first quarter of 2019, according to data published by the National Foundation for American Policy.

The foundation found that denials increased because of a higher standard of proof for approving an H-1B petition following the April 2017 “Buy American and Hire American” executive order issued by President Donald Trump.

Weinberger recalled several other recent examples of students affected, including one graduate student who went home to China for winter break. While about to board a flight back to the U.S., the student was told the entry visa had been canceled, with no reason provided. The student is reapplying, but travel is now hindered by the new coronavirus and the student has withdrawn from the spring semester, Weinberger said.

An exchange student from Europe also expected to arrive in the spring, but the visa application went into administrative processing for too long.

“These stories are really difficult, and our hearts go out to the students and the families who are going through this,” Weinberger said. “They are left in limbo.”

———

©2020 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Education

Experts Warn Injecting Money Into Higher Ed Without Oversight Could Lead to Profiteering
In The News
Experts Warn Injecting Money Into Higher Ed Without Oversight Could Lead to Profiteering
May 20, 2020
by Gaspard Le Dem

WASHINGTON -- Experts say that injecting federal money into America’s higher education system amid the coronavirus crisis could unintentionally lead to more profiteering in the industry. The pandemic has taken a significant toll on U.S. colleges and universities, shutting down college campuses and forcing teachers and... Read More

With Schools Shut, Democrats Seek Funds to Close ‘Homework Gap’
Education
With Schools Shut, Democrats Seek Funds to Close ‘Homework Gap’

WASHINGTON — With millions of students stranded at home for the duration of the academic year and questions persisting about whether the COVID-19 pandemic will allow schools to reopen in the fall, lawmakers and federal agencies are weighing the best ways to help a particularly vulnerable... Read More

To Open or Not to Open Come Fall? Colleges Need to Decide
In The News
To Open or Not to Open Come Fall? Colleges Need to Decide
May 15, 2020
by Gaspard Le Dem

Over the last few months, the coronavirus crisis has forced colleges and universities across America to close down campuses and teach students entirely online. Now, the new school year is around the corner, and they face another daunting challenge -- how to reopen safely amid the... Read More

Questions Abound As School Boards Assess How to Reopen After COVID-19
Education
Questions Abound As School Boards Assess How to Reopen After COVID-19
May 14, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Anyone who doubts how difficult it will be to reopen the nation's public schools in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak need only spend a few moments speaking to leaders of the National School Boards Association. Public schools are the one part of American... Read More

Universities Sued by Students Who Say Online Education Inadequate
Education
Universities Sued by Students Who Say Online Education Inadequate
May 11, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

Universities nationwide are being sued by parents and students who say the schools are falling short of their duties during the coronavirus shutdown. The universities have switched to online education until the national emergency subsides. The students and their parents say they didn’t pay tens of... Read More

New Campus Sexual Assault Rules Bolster Rights of Accused, Protections for Schools
In The News
New Campus Sexual Assault Rules Bolster Rights of Accused, Protections for Schools
May 6, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Education Department unveiled new campus sexual assault rules on Wednesday that significantly reduce the legal liabilities for schools, narrow the scope of cases educators will be required to investigate and bolster the rights of those accused of such assualts. “Today we release a... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top