(New York, NY) — On September 24, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a change to policies for international students and foreign media representatives requesting F, J and I visas, which would apply a fixed end-date to visas that under current rules are valid for the duration of academic enrollment or employment. For incoming international students, the majority of visas would be set to expire after 4 years, but for students coming from some countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, the visas would be shortened to only two years. Although the Trump administration argues this is for national security reasons, immigrant rights advocates and higher education groups have condemned the proposed policy as superfluous and detrimental to international academic exchange.

“At base, this proposed policy is xenophobic and cruel,” said Jonathan Friedman, program director for campus free speech at PEN America. “By setting arbitrarily strict limits on visa terms for a range of foreign nationals, this is yet another move by the Trump administration to hinder international exchange, as well as stifle the work of universities and the press. This policy will effectively deprive newly incoming international students of a guarantee that their visas will last as long as their programs of academic study, forcing them to gamble that their visas will be renewed by DHS officers. This risks chilling the speech of these students and media representatives too, as it gives DHS wide discretion to determine whose visas will be renewed.”