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BOX 7-3

The 214b Provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act: Establishing the Intent to Return Home

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) has served as the primary body of law governing immigration and visa operations since 1952. A potential barrier to visits by foreign graduate students is Section 214(b) of the INA, in accordance with which an applicant for student of exchange visa must provide convincing evidence that he or she plans to return to the home country, including proof of a permanent domicile in the home country. Legitimate applicants may find it hard to prove that they have no intention to immigrate, especially if they have relatives in the United States. In addition, both students and immigration officials are well aware that an F or J visa often provides entrée to permanent-resident status. It is not surprising that application and enforcement of the standard can depend on pending immigration legislation or economic conditions.a


aG. Chelleraj, K. E. Maskus, and A. Mattoo. The Contributions of Skilled Immigration and International Graduate Students to US Innovation. Working Paper N04-10. Boulder, CO: Center for Economic Analysis, University of Colorado at Boulder, September 2004. P. 18 and Table 1.

bassy and consular officials to track student and scholar visa applicants, these categories would provide a means for collecting clear data on numbers and trends of graduate-student and postdoctoral-scholar visa applications.

  1. Reciprocity Agreements: Multiple-entry and multiple-year student visas should have high priority in reciprocity negotiations.

  2. Change of Status: If the United States wants to keep the best students once they graduate, procedures for change of status should be clarified and streamlined.


The federal government should provide a 1-year automatic visa extension to international students who receive doctorates or the equivalent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or other fields of national need at qualified US institutions to remain in the United States to seek employment. If these students are offered jobs by US-based employers and pass a security screening test, they should be provided automatic work permits and expedited residence status. If students are unable to obtain employment within 1 year, their visas would expire.

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