Trump administration proposes another hurdle for international students

In what has been viewed by many in the scientific community as just another attack on science and foreign students, the Trump Administration published draft regulations ( that, if enacted, would require international students in the United States to reapply for visas every two or four years. Currently, F (student) and J (exchange) visas are issued for what is referred to as “duration of status” for the length of the visa holder’s academic program. More than 32,000 individuals and organizations submitted comments ( about the proposed policy change. The ASCB’s comments strongly opposed the proposed policy change.

In its comments ( submitted in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the ASCB said that “Instead of doing anything to improve the scientific visa system, which is already broken, it adds to the problem and makes it worse. It could even end America’s dominance as the world’s biomedical research leader.”

Students from all over the world come to the United States to study, because of the superior academic institutions, world-renowned scientists, and working environment critical to the scientific process that can be found in the United States, something recognized in the NPRM itself.

In a survey of ASCB members in early 2020, 90.77% of those who replied said that their research laboratories have, at some time, included trainees or other young scientists from other countries. Unfortunately, almost 40% of survey respondents said that international members of their labs have decided not to attend a scientific meeting, which are critical to the scientific process, in another country out of concerns they would not be able return to the United States because of U.S. immigration and visa roadblocks. Twenty percent said that they have had members of their lab leave to join labs in other countries because of the difficulty in maintaining their U.S. visa status.

As the ASCB comments said, “Requiring regular interaction with a bureaucratic system that is already a burden to these young scientists may be more than they are willing to put up with. It sends a very strong signal that, in reality, they are not wanted in the United States.”

The U.S. government rulemaking process requires agencies proposing rules to review all the comments submitted in response to each notice. With over 32,000 comments to review, a final rule may take weeks or months to enact.

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: