Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Major Changes Ahead for Student Visa Programs: Senate Bill Requires Government, Higher Education to Work Together. (Washington Update)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Major Changes Ahead for Student Visa Programs: Senate Bill Requires Government, Higher Education to Work Together. (Washington Update)

Article excerpt

The U.S. Senate in mid-April approved a bill with major changes in store for the way the federal government and higher education will manage student visa programs.

Under the bill with bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats, colleges and universities and the Justice Department would work more closely to exchange information about foreign students' date and port of entry, date of school enrollment, degree program and date at which a student graduates or drops out of school. The current system lacks such requirements, says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a co-sponsor of the legislation called the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act.

Specifically, the Justice Department would inform schools about a student's date of entry into the United States, while schools must inform the Immigration and Naturalization Service if students fail to show up at school within 30 days of the beginning of the academic term.

"Sept. 11 clearly pointed out the shortcomings of our immigrant and visa system," says Feinstein. "It is unconscionable that a terrorist might be permitted to enter the United States simply because our government agencies don't share information."

Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers were in the United States on student visas before the terrorist attack. The student visa system also faced harsh criticism after a Florida flight school received notice of a visa approval six months after the hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

The bill, S. 1749, has 61 Senate co-sponsors. Chief sponsors of the bill include Feinstein, as well as Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill late last year.

Under the legislation, the federal government also would gain stronger oversight of higher education practices regarding foreign students. …

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