Student visa review in Boston aftermath
The after effects of the Boston Bombings continue to be felt, and now may affect international students wishing to study in the US.
An order from a senior official at US Customs and Border Protection has called on border agents to renew their focus when confirming those who can and cannot enter the country on a student visa. This comes in the same week that a student from Kazakhstan, whose visa was no longer valid, has been accused of aiding the two suspects in the Boston Bombings last month.
In the case of this student, the agents on the ground were unable to verify his details as they did not have access to the system which Homeland Security uses to check these. Changes to the process would include using flight manifests to check this information before a student lands; if this action cannot be performed, a manual check will occur at the checkpoint.
Below are a few tips to keep in mind if travelling to the US (or anywhere for that matter) on a student visa:
If these changes do come into place, expect some delays while initial kinks and issues are worked out of the system. Like any process, there are bound to be some which cannot be envisioned until it goes live in a real environment. If you are meeting someone at the airport, or you are expected at your college/accommodation at a specific time, give yourself time in case you encounter delays. Notify someonw which plane you are on, and when it is expected. Make sure they have your updated contact information, and vice versa if delayed.
As noted above, keep to hand important information you may need to refer to in an emergency. Think about what documents you might need to verify your status and why you are in the country. This may include correspondence with your university (especially those with their letterhead, and addressed to you). Print this out, rather than rely on digital forms such as on a tablet or device which can run out of battery.
Travelling with a lot of luggage (especially when moving to a new country) can be full of problems, such as being able to access certain things you've packed when you need them. Avoid a scenario where you have to unpack your entire suitcase in the terminal, and think when you are packing. Keep important documents safe in your hand luggage, so there isn't a chance they'll be lost at the airport with your luggage; keep these on you at all times, preferably near the top, or in a sidepocket.
Mark on your calendar important dates related to the conditions of your visa. You can read about student visa information on our site, but feel free to check this on official government sites as well. When you begin, you probably won’t know your plans for when you graduate; so keep your options open and plan for all scenarios (at the start of your final year should give you enough time, and you'll have a better idea of your prospects). Keep note of the timescale for applying for the correct visa which will allow you to work after graduating, or for getting onto a training programme like the OPT (remember: these can take a few months to process). Always open messages from relevant authorities incase there have been changes to the system which might affect your status (perhaps actively check yourself every 6 months).
It is up to you to provide an employer with the correct information to show that you are eligible to work in the country. Depending on the employer, they may not check these as thoroughly as they should (after all they do have a business to run). It’s always best to be in the know yourself with these matters, and to be honest. This applies for working while you are a student as well.
In a country as large as the United States, you may be tempted to try and get away with not possessing the correct credentials to be in the country. After all, there are so many people immigrating to the States every year. Additionally, you might believe that it won’t take you long to find a job, and you don't have to play by the rules. Don’t think like this! In very rare circumstances, as in the case above, you might get away with this, but only temporarily; if – or when – you are caught, you will be immediately removed from the country with very little notice, and likely to be disqualified from returning again. This can affect your personal and professional life forever.
Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.