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Lifeline Provided To Burmese Students on F-1 Visas Holds Future Promise for Biden Administration – Niskanen Center

On May 25, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas added Burma to the list of countries with Special Student Relief (SSR) designation, easing restrictions for many Burmese recipients enrolled in the F-1 nonimmigrant student visa program. In recent months, Burma has been embroiled in nationwide civil unrest following a military coup that deposed the country’s democratically elected government. In response, the new Department of Homeland Security guidance reduced the number of required credit hours per semester and loosened work restrictions for many Burmese F-1 visa holders. With this shift, the Biden administration provided needed relief to the 1,828 Burmese students enrolled at US institutions during the 2019-20 academic year. The administration should take the time to also consider the many other F-1 students negatively impacted by turmoil in their home countries who would benefit from similar protections. 

Even under normal circumstances, the regulations governing initial approval for an F-1 student visa are substantial. A prospective student must first apply to — and be accepted by —  a certified U.S. academic institution. Students must then register with the web-based SEVIS monitoring system that allows the U.S. government to monitor their status throughout their stay in the United States. Finally, once a student is cleared to request a student visa, they must declare a non-U.S. permanent residence and prove that they possess sufficient funds to support themselves throughout their education. For applicants originating from areas of extreme instability — as is the case with Burma — maintaining compliance with these standards can be exceedingly difficult, as the families of applicants can be subject to the loss of these required assets at any time due to no fault of their own.

These initial requirements for Burmese students applying for a F-1 student visa have not changed, even under the amended DHS guidance. Instead, restrictions…

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