Proposed Change to Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

Yet Another Obstacle in the Path of Obtaining a US Student Visa?  

obstacle

Sadly, YES, if this proposal becomes law.  From the horse’s mouth:  

Section 212(a)(4) of the INA: Any alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible[…] In determining whether an alien is excludable under this paragraph, the consular officer or the Attorney General shall at a minimum consider the alien’s-(I) age; (II) health; (III) family status; (IV) assets, resources, and financial status; and (V) education and skills . . . .

As Fragomen pointed out in its analysis of this proposed regulation, If finalized in its current form, the rule would require foreign nationals submitting an application for adjustment of status, a visa or a change or extension of nonimmigrant status to establish that they are financially self-sufficient.

If you’re up to it, here’s the full-length version (PDF) published in the Federal Register, a publication I once had to scan back in the day because it was part of my job.  

While I thought this would be covered by the second criterion in the student visa process, namely, ability to pay, this rule sets the bar even higher and gives consular officers the world over yet another reason to just say no.  (This time we’re talking about student visas not drugs a la Nancy Reagan.)  

According to Ware Immigration, any of the following factors could become a “negative factor” that convinces DHS you are likely to become a public charge:

  • Prior or current use of certain public benefits including:  receipt of benefits for U.S. citizen dependent children who are eligible to receive them.
  • Receiving public benefits for more than 12 cumulative months during a 36-month period.
  • Being older than 61.
  • Being younger than 18.
  • Having any medical condition that could interfere with school or work.
  • Having insufficient resources to cover debilitating medical conditions.
  • Not having private health insurance.
  • Having several children or other dependents.
  • Having financial liabilities.
  • Having “bad credit” or a low credit score.
  • Having no employment history.
  • Not having a high school diploma or higher education.
  • Not having “adequate education and skills” to hold a job.
  • Not speaking English.
  • Receiving an application fee waiver from DHS.
  • Having a sworn financial sponsor whom DHS feels is “unlikely” to follow through.

This is not good news for a country already experiencing declining international enrollments for a host of social, political, and economic reasons, as well as push and pull factors related to other leading host countries.  Add this to a long list of negatives.  The perfect storm, indeed.  

The “glass half-empty” part of me sometimes wonders why the Trump Administration doesn’t just cut to the chase and hang out a sign, digital and offline, that says International Students (and Other Foreigners) Are No Longer Welcome Here.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

 

 

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Visa Issuance Rate as Institutional Selling Point (or Not)

Note:  This post is devoted exclusively to the US student visa for the obvious reason that it has the most irrational and unpredictable process of the top host countries for Vietnamese and other international students.  This is heartfelt advice to US colleagues, especially higher education, who have their work cut out for them these days with international student recruitment.  

visa_image
Image courtesy of Schenectady County Community College

There are many US colleges and universities with very high student visa issuance rates, in some cases, 100%.  Given how competitive the recruitment market has become and how problematic the student visa process is, including justifiable student and parent concerns about how hard it is to obtain a visa, this is a golden selling point for those institutions, mostly of the four-year variety, that they should be shouting from the rooftops, digital and otherwise.  If student A applies to university B, her chances of obtaining a visa are very high, which means one less thing to worry about.

For those schools with a less than stellar issuance rate, through no fault of their own, that’s easy.  No need to bring up the issue.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Gaming the US Student Visa System: Easy as 1-2-3

fraudDo you want to emigrate to the US without the muss and fuss of a multi-year immigrant petition that may or may not be approved?  Psst!  Here’s a low-cost solution.  Apply to an undergraduate or graduate program, depending upon your educational background, at a reputable college or university where there are not many Vietnamese students, if any at all.  Your chances are better that the application will look legitimate. 

Make up a plausible story as to why you chose that off-the-beaten path institution (kudos to you for being so adventurous!), get the student visa, and pack your bags!  (If you’re denied the first time, pony up another fee and come up with a better story.  Maybe the second time will be the charm.  Or the third time.  There is always a bit of luck involved.)

Next, student visa in hand, fly directly to the city in which one of your relatives lives, as you planned from the very beginning.  Then contact your institution and apologize for the change of plans (“So sorry!  Family reasons!” you know the drill), and enroll at a local institution.  It doesn’t matter what you study as long as you’re legally in the US.  Plus, you can rest easy knowing that the original admitting institution is legally obligated to transfer your SEVIS record if you submit the request within a specified period of time.  (You know what is, right?)  Bingo, you’re in!  You’re golden!  Out with the old, in with the new!  Congratulations!  You did it!

Now you can plan your next move.  Marriage to a US citizen?  Maybe you or your rels already have something arranged and someone in mind.  An immigration attorney will help you with that.  Work visa?  That may take a little longer, especially in the current political climate, but it’s possible.   An immigration attorney an help you with that, too.

Shift to a more serious tone…

Here’s one particularly egregious example of what is essentially visa fraud, whereby a student uses an existing loophole in US immigration law to presumably to lay the groundwork for immigration.   

cheating_bartA young woman says she wants to pursue an MBA in the US.  She gains admission, finally gets her student visa, arrives in the US, and makes a beeline for an area with a high concentration of Vietnamese-Americans, including, surprise!, some of her relatives.  Following my instructions above, she immediately requests that her SEVIS record be transferred to Community College A even though she has a BA, which was required to enter the MBA program. 

No, wait.  Maybe it’s not a CC, after all.  The plot thickens.  She’s actually planning to take ESL classes at a local university, even though she met the English requirement of the aforementioned MBA program.  (Is your head spinning yet?)  At any rate, it’s all for show because it’s clear she’s killing time so that a green card can be arranged.  

The admitting institution, which is investing considerable resources to recruit international, including Vietnamese, students, loses a student, which amounts to a waste of staff time and loss of valuable tuition revenue, among other intangible yet equally important losses.

The bottom line is that the US government has to close this loophole, or at least not make this process so easy for young people who are clearly not bona fide students without a plan to return home, two pillars of the holy trinity of the student visa process. 

Advisers, be they from EducationUSA, the private sector, or admitting institutions, cannot read minds and look into potential students’ hearts.  The system can, however, be reformed so that students are held accountable for their decisions.  Is anyone listening?

MAA