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Archive for the ‘Visa Policy’ Category

Could you use an elixir for disillusionment with the U.S. political system or the hand-wringing about the future of the United States? Listen to “Abdi and the Golden Ticket,” a story broadcasted on NPR’s “This American Life” about Abdi Nor, a Somali refugee living in Kenya who won the Diversity Visa (DV) program lottery.

The goal of the DV lottery, when it was created by Congress in 1990, was to diversify the immigrant population by allowing people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for one of 55,000 green cards available annually under the program. Unlike the vast majority of others who apply to live permanently in the United States, DV applicants aren’t required to have family already here or an employer sponsoring them.

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By Qianlei Li

President Barack Obama recently announced that the United States and China will increase the validity of student and exchange visitor visas from 1 to 5 years, and the validity of short-term tourist and business visas from 1 to 10 years. This is really great news and I’m glad to share why this agreement is important from a student perspective.

To begin with, it saves time, money, and energy for Chinese students studying in the United States. Previously, Chinese students applying for an F-1 visa were only granted an entry visa that was valid for a year. If our visa expired and if we planned to travel outside the United States (perhaps for an internship or study opportunity, or to visit family back home for the holidays), we needed to renew our visa annually, outside of the United States, either in China, Mexico, or Canada, before returning to continue our studies.

Because it’s difficult to figure out the visa renewal process in Mexico without having a strong command of Spanish, and also this year, Canada temporarily suspended processing of all non-Canadian visa applications, we have to go back to China and start the visa application all over again, including paying the $160 visa application fee and waiting hours outside of a U.S. consulate for an interview. Depending on the time of year, it can take up to a month to get your visa renewed. Therefore, most students choose to get their visas renewed during summer vacation. However, it costs at least $1,000 to get a round-trip air ticket to China, and the summer is a precious period of time to gain additional education and professional experience in the United States or somewhere else in the world.

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You may have heard that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has shifted course in its efforts to improve the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

SEVP has decided to step away from plans to develop a new “SEVIS II” system, and instead explore options that would enhance the existing SEVIS system. The agency will be working to develop alternative approaches to closing what it sees as security vulnerabilities in the system while also enhancing the value of SEVIS to designated school officials and schools.

I’m pleased to announce that I have been appointed a principal member of the SEVP’s SEVIS Modernization Analysis of Alternatives Oversight Board and will be involved in the development and consideration of these alternatives. I will be joined by NAFSA Director of Regulatory Practice Liaison Steve Springer, who will serve as an associate member of the board.

The board was recently chartered by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is made up of senior federal agency officials and several members of the stakeholder community. With your feedback and input, we will provide valuable guidance to the agency as it works to develop and evaluate alternatives for improving SEVIS.

We welcome your ideas for improving SEVIS. Your voice plays a critical role in our liaison and advocacy efforts, and will be a valuable asset as NAFSA participates in this analysis of alternatives process. As always, we invite you to provide your input to NAFSA staff by visiting IssueNet: Report an Issue.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated as the board moves forward.

For more on SEVP’s progress in modernizing SEVIS and expectations for the analysis of alternatives process, see the SEVIS: The Way Forward FAQ and SEVP Director Louis M. Farrell’s opening remarks in the July 2014 SEVP-Spotlight. For more information on how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) generally uses the analysis of alternatives process, see the Analysis of Alternatives Methodologies: Considerations for DHS Acquisition Analysis report.

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This post was originally published on ILW.com, a leading immigration online law publisher, on July 3, 2012. 

What are we going to do about U.S. immigration policy? That question is back in the spotlight again after a whirlwind two weeks for the issue. First, the Obama Administration announced that it would end the deportations of undocumented young people who would be eligible for relief under the DREAM Act. Then, last week, the Supreme Court struck down three of four key elements of the controversial anti-immigrant law passed in 2010 by the state of Arizona.

Both of these developments are significant steps in the right direction – but they rightly beg the question: How do we really go about fixing the problem we have when it comes to U.S. immigration policy? What is needed is a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that is based in fairness, facts, and a shared future.

These three concepts aren’t just nice words – they mean something.

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This blog post was originally published on Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council.

Current U.S. immigration law provides few options for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM” degrees) who want to stay here to contribute their skills and knowledge. Not enough American students are interested in these fields, even as employers regularly cannot find enough people with the high-tech and scientific knowledge and skills they need to fill available positions. Luckily for the United States, international students seek out these majors and excel in them. But increasingly, we lose these talented graduates to other competitor countries where immigration laws are friendlier. This is, of course, an enormous loss to the U.S. economy, as international students with STEM degrees often create successful businesses and jobs in the United States. Last week, DHS took a strong step forward by expanding the list of STEM fields for foreign graduates applying to training programs after graduation.

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Ireland EducationBy Kevin Dillon
Last week, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen launched an ambitious new plan to establish Ireland as a hub of international education. With the aim of expanding international students in higher education by 50% and in English language schools by 25% over the next five years, the industry would contribute some 1.2 billion euro to the economy by 2015. Ten separate strategic aims are set out in the plan to achieve in the Taoiseach’s words, a reputation as “a world-leading provider of international education.”

A key feature of the strategy is the overhaul of immigration laws in order to facilitate ease of access for international students. Fresh accountability initiatives in publishing visa waiting times, and a commitment to staff mobility in tackling problem waiting areas are designed to ensure a fast-track access process for students. Greater rights for international students’ families such as attending state-funded schools have been integrated into the plan as well as the right for students to remain in Ireland for up to a year after completing their degree in order to gain work experience. (Read NAFSA’s recommendations for immigration and visa policy reform in the United States).

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We received good news this week when we learned that the U.S. State Department reversed its decision in the Hollman Morris visa denial case. Mr. Morris, a prominent Colombian journalist, was previously denied permission to travel to the United States to participate in the prestigious Nieman Fellowship program at Harvard University. This decision was reversed on Monday after NAFSA: Association of International Educators and many other organizations committed to educational exchange and academic freedom raised the case with the State Department.

NAFSA continues to urge Secretary Clinton to end all State Department policies and practices pertaining to ideological exclusion. Ideological exclusion hampers the advancement of academic and political debate in the United States and undermines this country’s ability to support voices of dissent and reform in other countries. Ideological exclusion also deprives U.S. citizens of their First Amendment right to “hear, speak, and debate with” foreign scholars face‐to‐face. Visa policies should be based on security threats, not ideology.

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The April 30 edition of the Washington Post carried an interesting Forum piece headlined “Getting Smarter on Intelligence” by Thomas Fingar and Mary Margaret Graham, former senior officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was created in the post-9/11 restructuring of the intelligence community. The authors point out the unrecognized ways that the community’s performance is being transformed under DNI through the development of technologies and policies that foster and facilitate information sharing and collaborative work. These paragraphs caught my attention:

Technology has helped. Five years ago, Intellipedia — a classified collaborative tool similar to Wikipedia but used by analysts and collectors — was a timid and limited experiment in a single agency. No one had yet imagined A-Space, a cutting-edge collaborative electronic workspace in which analysts have access to data from all components of the intelligence community, social networking software that identifies others working on similar problems and data manipulation tools that were previously available to a select few. Time Magazine called A-Space one of the 50 best inventions of 2008. The Library of National Intelligence, a groundbreaking distributed repository of all disseminated intelligence reports that enable intelligence professionals to discover what we already know and how obtained information has been used, was not even a gleam in anyone’s eye. Today, all are proven and widely used tools that enable analysts (and, increasingly, collectors) to work together responsibly in cyberspace.

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