by MARY LOUTON
Director of International Student Services
International students studying in the U.S. must obtain a student visa and continually maintain their status through following specific U.S. federal regulations. The U.S. government attitude toward immigration policy changes with every administration and very soon, the Senate reportedly plans to roll out legislation to overhaul all U.S. immigration policies and regulations. This reform promises to be a much-needed but lengthy process to restructure the system of allocating U.S. visas to non US citizens, including regulations pertaining to student visas.
A group of educators working to advance international education recently hosted Advocacy Day on March 12-13 to promote our own agenda in this immigration overhaul. For the 2nd year in a row, I received a grant from the New England region of NAFSA to represent our musician international students and the state of Massachusetts. On the first day, we trained on how to “soapbox” our specific issues through story telling. I came prepared to share the experiences of our musicians and the regulatory challenges they face in the pursuit of education.
Day two was packed with meetings with staff from the offices of area representatives, as well as personal meetings with Representative Keating and our newly elected senator, Elizabeth Warren. I shared the stories of our students with Congress and how the immigration reform needs to address the frequent challenges that international students face while traveling in and out of the U.S., in addition to the strict limitations on engaging in work off-campus. Furthermore, we stressed the importance of clearing a pathway for students to stay in the U.S. after their studies and to create more opportunities to students to engage in short-and long-term employment options during and after their studies. For a full synopsis of our goals, please see www.nafsa.org/113thcongress.
I loved every second of working in Washington, DC on behalf of international students. It is important for the people who change the laws governing student visas to truly understand the issues and how a better system can serve the U.S. While immigration reform will go through many stages before it is finally put into law, everyone I met agreed: support is high for beneficial regulatory changes for student visas on Capitol Hill.