16 July 2020

Visa Policy Changes and the AAS

Kelsie Krafton

Kelsie Krafton Space Studies Board of the NAS

In an effort to keep the community better informed of our efforts, I would like to summarize here what has been happening with US immigration recently and what the AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) and the Society's public policy staff have been doing about it.

On the 22 June Proclamation by the White House

On 22 June the White House issued a proclamation that suspends entry to the US of non-immigrant workers through 31 December 2020. There are exceptions to this new rule: the proclamation does not apply to optional practical training , or OPT, does not suspend entry for J-1 visa holders in certain STEM categories (students, professors, and research scholars), and does not suspend transitions to H-1B for people already in the US. The proclamation does suspend entry to the US for H-1B visa applicants, which includes many of our fellow researchers. AAS President Paula Szkody issued a statement on this development, which also addressed the guidance described in the following paragraph.

On the 6 July ICE Guidance (Rescinded)

ICE PoliceOn 6 July the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced a modification to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that required students with F-1 and M-1 visas taking completely online course loads to leave the US. Also, visas would not be issued to students enrolled in online-only programs for the fall semester, and these students would not be permitted to enter the United States. Right away, we joined a multi-society letter condemning this misguided policy. Days later, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit to block this regulation. On Monday, 13 July, the AAS, together with 15 other professional societies, signed on to the amicus brief submitted to this case by the American Physical Society, a fellow member society of the American Institute of Physics. In a hearing on Tuesday, 14 July, US District Judge Allison D. Burroughs announced that the guidance issued by ICE had been rescinded. While we are pleased with this development, we continue to watch out for other Trump administration actions in this domain.

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