Additional Issue Areas
Department of State Proposed Rule
In December, the Department of State released a proposed rule which would increase fees for non-petition-based nonimmigrant visa applicants, including student and exchange visitors. The Department proposes a change in the current fee for these visa applicants from $160.00 to $245.00, a 53% increase. Given the negative impact this could have on the international exchange community, the Alliance collected comments from our members to develop a comment letter in opposition to this fee increase.
Build Back Better Act
The House recently passed its version of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act (H.R. 5376). The House bill proposes three additional fees: a $250 fee on F, M, and J visa applicants, a $500 fee to change or extend such visas, and a $19 fee for entering the United States. If included in the final bill, these fees would create additional hurdles for prospective exchange participants and hardship for their program sponsors. The Alliance shared a letter, co-signed by over 240 organizations, with Congress in which we requested that the Senate not include these fees or other exchange-related visa fees in their Build Back Better Act. Moreover, we requested that Congress continue to differentiate between short versus long-term programs.
Exchange Visitor Program appropriations directive
The Alliance thanks Congress for protecting the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Programs in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bill signed into law. The bill includes a provision reflecting strong support for exchange programs that are vital to U.S. national security and economy. The provision, included in FY2018, FY2019, and FY2020 enacted bills, contains specific requirements that Exchange Visitor Programs must remain the same as currently enacted in the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, unless the U.S. Department of State goes through a transparent, formal rulemaking process and actively consults with Congress. With this legislation, Congress demonstrated strong support that exchange programs are good for the United States, diplomatically and economically.
Biden transition engagement
As the Biden transition team continues to grow and release policy initiatives, the Alliance is continuing to advocate for the importance of exchange programs. The Alliance sent a document to the transition team outlining our policy requests for the new Administration. In this document, we encourage the Biden Administration to take a number of critical steps, in collaboration with Congress and the exchange community, to help rebuild international exchange programs and make them stronger than ever before.
Duration of status
On Friday, September 25, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule to eliminate duration of status (D/S) for F students and their dependents, J exchange visitors and their dependents, and I media representatives. The 30-day comment period ended on Monday, October 26 and garnered more than 31,000 public comments. The Alliance submitted a comment letter urging DHS “to withdraw the rule and maintain the current duration of status policy.”
In late October 2020, ECA announced a new brand identity for the Exchange Visitor Program. The new BridgeUSA branding is the culmination of a multi-year endeavor to re-imagine the private sector component of the Exchange Visitor Program. The goal of the rebrand is to create a professional brand for the private sector component of the EVP to more effectively communicate our mission, program values, and global impact to stakeholders and audiences. BridgeUSA unifies ECA administered, private sector programs under one umbrella and brings the mission and global impact of our programs front and center in the name and creative tagline.