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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

New law to clarify U.S. rules for student visas

Last week, the House and Senate passed H.R. 4967, the Border Commuter Student Act of 2002, to correct ambiguous border laws that were misdirected after Sept. 11 spiked suspicions toward all "foreigners" in the United States. The stricter policies of the Immigration and Naturalization Services prevented part-time students from traveling across national borders to their U.S. schools.

The act creates new non-immigrant Visa categories (F3 and M3) for students pursuing part-time academic and vocational training in the United States, along with new categories for their spouses and children.

Although the Immigration and Nationality Act, amended often over the years since 1952, provided a visa category for students engaged in full-time studies in the United States, there was previously no part-time commuter student category.

Before Sept. 11 the INS had -- according to Lisa Bos, House contact person for the bill -- "winked" all students through. This summer they announced stricter border control for the fall, blocking part-time students because no legal language existed to protect them.

Schools on the Arizona border with Mexico were affected by the change in policy, some stood to lose hundreds of students and millions of dollars in tuition, and they brought the issue to the attention of Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, the main supporter of the new bill.

"We want to be able to give our great neighbors access to the resources we have, educational resources, and it will benefit businesses on the borders," a spokesman for Kolbe said.

In a letter to solicit support for the bill, Kolbe and fellow supporters wrote, "It is in the interest of the United States to allow our neighbors to take courses in English, history, mathematics or philosophy at our nation's colleges and schools along the border.

"Along the Southwest Border the knowledge gained will be taken back daily to Mexico to help improve their country's economic development and reduce the pressure on Mexican economic migration into the U.S.."

Though the potential effect on border schools is great, "the impact on Dartmouth College and its current and future international students will be minimal, "as generally, we do not have part-time, or commuter students," the International Office's Robin Catmur said.

The bill was passed unanimously by the House on Oct. 15 and in the Senate on Oct. 16. It was presented to President Bush on Oct. 23, and the bill's supporters are optimistic about getting the President's signature.