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Archive for the ‘Visa Policy’ Category

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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Lee Hamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, and a former U.S. Congressman, makes a powerful case for investment in and advancement of international education in “Exploit soft power of colleges” published yesterday by The Indianapolis Star. Hamilton writes:

To remain economically competitive and culturally vibrant in the 21st century, we need to have the world’s best educated work force. International education will strengthen our country and enhance the quality of our lives.

NAFSA couldn’t agree more. International education has a clear role in enhancing America’s competitiveness and long-term economic growth. Students who study or volunteer abroad and learn foreign languages are far better prepared to compete in the job market, as cross-cultural competency and global experience are now widely recognized as essential skills and the keys to innovation and competitiveness in the global economy.

Yet today, only 1 percent of American college students participate in study abroad programs each year, and, as Hamilton points out, minorities and students of limited financial means are underrepresented. Hamilton argues that we need to expand educational exchanges, and he is a strong supporter of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, which aims to send one million American college students abroad annually in ten years time. The Simon Act will encourage diversity in student participation as well as locations of study abroad, particularly in developing countries.

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An editorial in the New York Times today called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to end ideological exclusion policies and reconsider the questionable visa denials practices from the Bush Administration. We couldn’t agree more.

On February 25, NAFSA along with 20 other organizations sent a letter to Secretary Clinton, thanking her for ending the exclusion of Professors Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg and Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University. The letter goes on to urge Secretary Clinton to end all State Department policies and practices pertaining to ideological exclusion, and replace them with policies based on security threats.

As reported in late March, Secretary Clinton signed orders in January lifting the ban barring Dr. Habib and Dr. Ramadan, and since then, both professors have traveled successfully to the United States. As the New York Times points out,

The appearances last week by the two men at separate public forums in New York City were a tangible victory for freedom of speech and the robust exchange of ideas across international borders.

However, as the article illustrates, much more needs to be done. It is time to end all State Department policies and practices pertaining to ideological exclusion for foreign scholars so that we can ensure a vibrant global marketplace of ideas.

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Last month, the Department of Energy announced that 69 scientists from across the country will receive up to $85 million in funding under the American Recovery and ReInvestment Act over the next five years in the form of research grants as part of the Department’s Early Career Research Program. The program is designed to stimulate scientific innovation by providing support to exceptional researchers during the early stages of their careers, when most groundbreaking work occurs.

The award recipients are based either at leading U.S. research universities or at one of the DOE-funded national laboratories, and they represent the best and brightest in their fields, fields ranging from basic energy sciences and biological and environmental research to high energy and nuclear physics. According to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, “This investment reflects the Administration’s strong commitment to creating jobs and new industries through scientific innovation.”

What the announcement neglected to mention is that at least one third of the award recipients are foreign-born, having first come to the United States to study or conduct research either as a graduate student or as a post doctoral fellow. China, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, and Canada are just some of the countries they hail from.

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