New Immigration Ban Leaves Students Untouched
Move may hinder recruitment of international faculty and researchers
A new Presidential Proclamation extends an existing suspension of immigrant visas and adds a new suspension for certain nonimmigrant visas that support employment, which could make it more difficult for the University to recruit international faculty and researchers. The Trump administration says the extension is intended to address current unemployment rates and protect US workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will have little effect on BU students, according to Jeanne Kelley, managing director of BU’s International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO).
Kelley says the proclamation, which was issued Monday, suspends entry to the United States for foreign national employees in H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and nonacademic J-1 visa categories from June 24, 2020, to December 31, 2020. ISSO has posted a summary of the ban with details about how the ban impacts the BU community.
The ban does not impact H-1 employees who are currently in the United States working in valid H-1 status, does not restrict H-1 employees from changing employers from within the United States, and does not impact the USCIS application process to change to H-1 status from within the United States, Kelley says.
“Fortunately, the ban does not include any restrictions to F-1 visa processing, which is one of the main draws for international students to the United States,” she says, “nor does it include the J-1 visa categories which many students and scholars obtain to come to BU.” And it does not impact current F-1 or J-1 students or any recent BU graduates in the United States working under F-1 OPT or F-1 STEM OPT. The ban is limited only to employment-based nonimmigrant categories.
On the other hand, she says, the expanded ban will affect the University’s ability to recruit new international faculty, researchers, and employees in the H-1 temporary worker classification, unless the individual is already in the United States on an H-1 visa. She warns that departments recruiting new employees from outside the United States in the H-1 classification may need to redistribute workload and fall teaching assignments. The ISSO Scholar Services Team has already started strategizing with various departments currently processing H-1 sponsorship for new employees expected to begin later this summer and fall. The expanded ban will further limit the mobility of BU employees in the H-1 classification (as well as their dependent family members) if they are currently outside without a valid visa, in addition to the many other COVID-related travel restrictions and worldwide visa processing suspensions.
While this is a troubling development because many students aspire to pursue H-1 sponsorship after they graduate and work on OPT to support continued employment in the US, they should keep in mind that this new ban does not impact F-1s and is temporary until December 31, 2020.
“While this ban does not directly impact F-1 students, it will still be a troubling development because many students aspire to pursue H-1 sponsorship after they graduate and work on OPT to support continued employment in the US,” Kelley says. “Students should keep in mind that this new ban does not impact F-1s and is temporary until December 31, 2020. Furthermore, it does not prevent students from changing from F-1 to H-1 status from within the US. That point is important, as they should still be eligible to apply for OPT, a STEM OPT extension, and transition to H-1 status provided they remain inside the US.”
Boston University has made its opposition to such restrictions clear. The University is a signatory on letters written by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts objecting to restrictive immigration policies.
A statement issued Monday by the AAU warned that the new proclamation threatens the economic security of the United States. “Today’s executive action will harm our nation’s economic and scientific competitiveness while failing to achieve any of the president’s stated goals in issuing it,” Mary Sue Coleman, AAU president, wrote. “While we share the administration’s concern about limiting the spread of COVID-19, this order will not stem the spread of the disease. As we deal with COVID-19 and its impact on our nation’s economy, America must ensure that we continue to attract the world’s brightest and best researchers, innovators, and scientists to drive scientific discovery and the economic innovation and job growth that discovery brings.
“The H1-B and H-4 visa programs that today’s executive order curtails have long allowed bright, hardworking individuals to come to America and contribute to our nation’s educational endeavors and scientific innovation. Depriving our nation of talent threatens, rather than safeguards, our nation’s health and economic security.”