AILA Doc No. 97032159 | Dated March 21, 1997
U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service
March 21, 1997
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 Changes Affecting F-1 Student Visas
As of November 30, 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 prohibited any alien from receiving an F-1 student visa if the alien was coming to attend a public elementary school, grades Kindergarten through 8, or a publicly-funded adult education program. Students in grades 9 through 12 must pay the unsubsidized, per capita cost of education in advance to be eligible for an F-1 student visa and are limited to a period not to exceed one year.
* Who is eligible to attend public school in the United States on an F-1 student visa?
The Immigration and Nationality Act defines the F-1 non- immigrant alien as one who has not abandoned their residence in a foreign country and who is a bona fide student coming temporarily and solely to the United States to pursue a course of study at a recognized institution of education approved by the Attorney General to accept foreign students.
The 1996 changes to the immigration law prohibit attendance at a public elementary school or publicly-funded adult education program, and restrict attendance at a public secondary school to a cumulative period not to exceed one year while requiring reimbursement of the unsubsidized, per capita costs of education.
* Why are elementary and secondary school students being turned away at the border ports of entry?
A student seeking entry into the United States with an F-1 student visa after November 30, 1996, must meet the requirements of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The new law includes provisions that eliminate F-1 visas to students attending public elementary school (kindergarten through grade 8) or publicly-funded adult education programs, regardless of ability to pay. The law also requires that public secondary school students pay, in advance, the full unsubsidized per capita cost of their education, and limits attendance to a cumulative total of 12 months.
* Why are students with valid multiple-entry, F-1 student visas being refused entry?
An unexpired, multiple-entry F-1 student visa is valid only if the alien remains eligible for the visa. Many aliens may have been eligible for an F-1 student visa prior to the changes to the law that became effective November 30, 1996. By leaving the United States, even for one day, the F-1 visa holder must reapply for admission at a port of entry, and at that time, the F-1 student must meet the requirements of the changes to the law.
* Who sets the levels of tuition that must be reimbursed?
The local public school system is responsible to determine the unsubsidized, per capita cost of education at its schools. Student visas for attendance at a public school are restricted under the new law to students in grades 9 through 12 who have paid the unsubsidized, per capita cost of education and for a period not to exceed one year.
* How can a student continue his or her education at their U.S. school if unable to enter the U.S.?
The law does not allow an alien to be admitted with an F-1 student visa to attend a public elementary school or publicly-funded adult education program. This includes aliens formerly attending such academic programs who seek readmission to the United States to resume their studies. Aliens who seek to continue their education may transfer to a private elementary or secondary school, or privately- funded adult education program.
* What are the penalties for continuing to go to school?
The provisions of the new law apply as of November 30, 1996 to aliens who seek an F-1 visa or a change in their immigration status while already in the United States. Aliens in the United States on F-1 visas who do not apply for an extension or plan to leave the United States and apply for readmission are not affected by the changes. Aliens admitted as an F-1 student to attend a private secondary school who transfer to a public school and who do not reimburse the school for the full, unsubsidized cost of education are in violation of their status and are subject to a five-year bar for readmission to the United States.
* Are Mexican students being targeted by this change in the law?
The new provisions affecting student visas apply to all aliens, regardless of nationality.
Prepared by the Office of Public Affairs (202)514-2648
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 97032159.