Ask an OISS Advisor: F-1 Visa Changes

QUESTION: I heard that the rules for obtaining a new F-1 visa have been changed. Is this something I need to be concerned about?
By Jason Marquart, Team Leader

Answer: For most international students who are already here at Washington University, the answer is no. However, the details require some explanation.

In August 2017, the US Department of State amended the policy guidance on determining whether or not an international student has immigrant intent.  The changes are related specifically to the requirement that an international student must have a residence abroad.

The F-1 visa regulations have always included the requirement that students have and maintain a residence abroad in order to be eligible for the F-1 visa.  However, in 2005 a State Department cable seemed to give the consular officers more discretion in applying this regulation.  The cable explained that the residence abroad requirement should be considered in a larger context.  The cable instructed consular officers to view the application with a focus on the immediate intent, knowing that an international student may still be deciding on their long term plans.

The latest policy guidance that was issued in August effectively removes the language that gave the consular officers discretion and suggests that the residence abroad requirement should be applied as explained in the Foreign Affairs Manual.  This seems to indicate that the State Department wishes to apply the residence abroad requirement as it was before 2005.

At this point, it is hard to know how this will affect those who plan to apply for an F-1 visa in the future; however, we are watching this development closely and will be sure to notify international students if necessary.

I should say that this only affects international students who may need to renew their F-1 visa while studying in the United States as this rule is only applied by the consulates at the time of the visa application.

As always, feel free to reach out to your International Student Advisor for any questions or concerns you may have.

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Send us your questions! “Ask an OISS Advisor” is a regular feature in the International Voice where OISS advisors answer questions that have been submitted by International Students and Scholars from Washington University. This means that we need your help! If you have a question that you would like to have answered in this column, please send it to us. It might be a question for which you don’t know the answer or it may be a particular issue that you have noticed causes confusion for many other international students. If you’re not sure if it’s a good question for this feature, go ahead and send it in, and we will decide. Please send your questions to the editor of the International Voice at: mark.bass@wustl.edu . Indicate if you prefer for your question to be anonymous.