The President Trump administration is proposing a new rule to limit student visas to two years for citizens of 59 countries.
The countries targeted, Nigeria inclusive, are those that are designated as state sponsors of terrorism and those with a high rate of people who come to the US and overstay their visas.
The new rule, if validated, may hinder foreign students seeking admission to American colleges and universities from doing so.
Student visas are currently valid for as long as students are enrolled in their course of study. But the proposed rule, published by the Department of Homeland Security, would limit the validity period to two years for certain immigrants under the theory that it will be easier to identify security threats and monitor compliance.
After that two-year period, students will have to apply for an extension.
It’s not clear whether immigration officials could deny their request even if a student would need it to complete a traditional four-year undergraduate program or a PhD, which can take six years or longer.
But if a student is taking longer than the typical time it takes to complete their course of study, they will have to provide evidence of “compelling academic reasons,” a documented medical condition, or other circumstances beyond the student’s control, including a natural disaster or national health crisis, according to the rule.
That could potentially dissuade foreign students from enrolling in American universities, which are already experiencing a decline in foreign student enrollment — a critical source of talent and tuition.
Foreign students generate an estimated $32 billion in revenue annually and support more than 300,000 jobs, according to the think tank New American Economy.
It’s not clear if the rule will go into effect. The Trump administration has only a few months to finalize the rule before January 2021, when a new administration could take over and abandon the proposal.
But if President Trump wins a second term in November, time would be on his side.
The proposal would affect citizens and people born in countries on the State Department’s State Sponsors Terrorism List, including Iran, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea.
It would also apply to citizens of another 55 countries with a more than 10 percent rate of visa overstays, including all but a few African countries.
Some of those countries send large numbers of foreign students to the US, including Vietnam, Nigeria, and Nepal.