DHS’ tough visa rules could lock out Kenyan students from studying in US

US Visa
US visa application. [Photo: courtesy]

A raft of proposals by US President Donald Trump to limit the stay of Kenyan students pursuing degrees in the US spells trouble of eventual lockout.

In the new proposals by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kenyan students seeking to pursue degree courses which at minimum take four years will only get a visa valid for two years.

This, Immigration experts warn, will effectively lock out students from pursuing studies in America.

“If DHS’s new proposed rule goes through, international students from countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Vietnam, and the Philippines would be effectively banned from getting four-year degrees in the US,” US Immigration lawyer Aaron Reinchlin-Melnick, who is a Policy Analyst at the American Immigration Council, warned.

Further, DHS proposes that a visa not longer than two years be given to students from State Sponsor of Terrorism list which include Iran, Syria, Sudan and Northern Korea and those from countries “with over 10 per cent overstay rate”.

Experts cite that the proposals will mostly affect African and Asian students seeking an opportunity to pursue their courses in the US. 

Among them are students Afghanistan, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, DRC Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Guinea-Bissau and Guyana are affected.

Others are Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rwanda and Samoa. The rest are Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Turmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen and Zambia.

The DHS proposals stipulate that an extension will not be issued once the visa expires explaining that if this is done, it rules will not be applying what they were meant to achieve which is dealing with students overstaying in the US after their studies.

Data by the Department of Homeland Security shows that in 2019, some 32,023 people were suspected of overstaying a student /exchange visa.

By 2019, there were 3,451 Kenyan students enrolled with various institutions of higher learning in the US with Cornell, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Columbia, Northeastern University, Duke, New York University, Yale and Princeton are being the top 10 favourite institutions preferred by Kenyans.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya comes in third in terms of the number of students who fly to the US to pursue degrees. Nigeria leads the pack with an estimated 13,423 students enrolled in US higher learning institutions while Ethiopia takes the second position.