By Christian Brazil Bautista

Proposed new guidelines from the US Department of Homeland Security aims to establish additional roadblocks for Filipinos seeking four-year university degrees in the United States.

If passed, the proposal would limit the duration of visas for Filipino students to two years. This is due to a provision that essentially penalizes countries for having an overstay rate of over 10 percent. In 2019, the overstay rate for Filipino students in the US was at 13.28 percent, with 1,452 overstaying out of a total of 10,934 expected departures.

This means that Filipino students seeking four-year degrees in the US would only be guaranteed the right to stay in the country for half the duration of their program. Under the current rule, foreign students in the US are allowed to stay in the country for the duration of their program. As outlined in the proposal, Filipino students would have to apply for extensions to complete a full four-year course. This can lead to additional cost and denials.

“These proposed changes are deeply troubling, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the president of Stanford University, said in a statement.

“The proposed rule creates additional stress and uncertainty for international students, scholars and their families, and for all who dream of pursuing their education in the United States, now and in the future.”

Ken Cuccinelli, an official with DHS, justified the proposal, saying that it is “critical in improving program oversight mechanisms; preventing foreign adversaries from exploiting the country’s education environment; and properly enforcing and strengthening U.S. immigration laws.”

The DHS proposal would include F (academic students), J (foreign exchange visitors) and I (visiting foreign journalist) visa holders. It also covers students who were born in or are citizens of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism such as North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

According to data from the Institute of International Education, there were 3,320 Filipino students studying in the US in 2019. The figure, which represents a 2.9 percent increase from the year before, marked the third straight year of student population growth for Filipino students in the US.

Christian Brazil Bautista has worked in both the United States and the Philippines, reporting and editing for The Real Deal, Digital Trends, Financial Times, Real Estate Weekly, Yahoo! Southeast Asia and Rappler.