Skip to main content

UW–Madison calls for withdrawal of proposed rule targeting international students, scholars

October 8, 2020

UW–Madison opposes a new rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security that would establish fixed terms of two or four years for international students and scholars in F or J status to complete their studies. It would also add additional restrictions based on their country of origin.

This rule would replace the long-standing policy known as “duration of status,” that allows the flexibility necessary for international students and scholars to stay in the U.S. as long as necessary to complete their studies, provided they remain enrolled and in compliance with visa regulations. The arbitrary time limit set in the proposed policy creates uncertainty for students as to whether they will be allowed to stay and complete their studies, particularly those in programs that often take more than four years to complete.

This is especially pertinent for Ph.D. students, who contribute to our national economic competitiveness in cutting-edge fields. Doctorates often take six or more years to finish. The set expiration date would mean that every student or scholar whose study or research extends beyond the fixed two- or four-year time limit would be required to file an extension of status request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The federal government’s current policy is effective. It recognizes that academic programs have differing lengths and individual student and scholar time to degree fluctuates depending on many factors such as health issues, experiments taking longer than expected, or additional courses pursued. It does not allow students and scholars to remain in the U.S. indefinitely as they must be enrolled full time (or in practical training) and in compliance with all the requirements of their status, which are continually tracked in the Student and Exchange Visitor database.

UW–Madison values the vital contributions our international students and scholars bring to the campus, enriching our classrooms and research, teaching our students, and bolstering our ability to find solutions to global problems. The university will continue to oppose this policy proposing arbitrary time limits and other restrictions and advocate vigorously with our peer institutions in support of international students and scholars.

“The University of Wisconsin–Madison strongly encourages the Department of Homeland Security and other policymakers to withdraw this rule,” said UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “We are in a global competition for talent. This rule would make U.S. and universities like UW–Madison a less attractive destination for the best and the brightest, who we need to maintain technological leadership and develop scientific innovations. This rule also may unequally impact students from smaller countries and endanger the rich diversity and exchanges they bring to institutions in Wisconsin and across the U.S.”