F1 VISA Situation for International Students Taking Online Courses, by Beatrice Magistro

Thirteen years ago, a sixteen year-old teenager on a J-1 visa was preparing to enter the US as a high school exchange student, with the hope to live the American dream she had heard about and seen in the movies. I am that student, that experience changed my life and made me fall in love with the US; a country that was not my own but welcomed me with open arms nonetheless. Seven years later I decided to enter the US again, on an F-1 visa, to give back some of what I had obtained through that experience; to give back by becoming a college teacher and by engaging in research with direct policy-making implications.

 

After President Trump’s recent executive order suspending the new issuance of several visas, including the J-1, today ICE announced that foreign students under F and M visa may not remain in the US if they exclusively take online classes in the Fall. The recent measures regarding J-1 visas and F-1 visas, if taken a few years ago, would have not made my experience in this country possible. With the stroke of a pen my exchange year would have been canceled entirely and so would my doctoral student career.

 

A lot of my work as an academic is about immigration, about what drives people’s preferences for immigration, and I have written in the past about the economic effects of immigration (spoiler: they are positive). So I could write some more about how immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the US. Not to mention that, ironically, if the US loses foreign students because of this new measure, its trade deficit — which Trump had promised to eliminate — will get bigger. Higher education is one of America’s most successful exports. But I will not. I will write about my experience moving to this country, the dreams I had, and the pain of realizing it might be time to change life plans.

 

When I came here I acquired not one, but two new families, and lifelong friendships. Since I have come here my Sunday mornings have been black and white, cheering for Juventus, my Italian soccer team, but on Sunday afternoons, my gear turns blue, green, and gray for Seahawks games. Super Bowl Sunday has become an official holiday. I learned to appreciate Americanos, along with my beloved espressos. I even tried Hawaiian pizza and survived it. I have celebrated Thanksgiving every year with my host family — and I have learned to make a killer pecan pie.

 

I love this country but I also recognize its present struggles. I have tried to learn more about its history to help make it better and I have donated to support Black lives and communities. I am not just a transient inhabitant of this country, here just to acquire an education and leave. I feel like an active part of this community that deserves to be here, like anyone else.

 

Since the day I first came here I felt I could one day become part of this country. No matter what you look like, where you come from, what your religion is, you can become an American. This is extraordinary for someone coming from a very homogeneous place where citizenship is still largely based on ius sanguinis (acquired by the nationality or ethnicity of one or both parents).

 

This executive order makes a lot of us immigrants – all with very similar stories – wonder if we are still welcome, if the US is for us still a “land of hopes and dreams”. I hope that this time the Boss is right and that “Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past“.

 

 

One comment

  • Elizabeth Joyce

    My life has changed because of exchange students. We have opened up our homes to them over the years and, in return, we have acquired families from all over the world whom we love to this day. People like you, Bea, have made us aware of so many cultures, habits and attitudes that are very much like ours, or totally different. We embrace them all. You have made us so much more understanding of differences in colors, religions, cultures, everyday habits, just to name a few. It is our privilege to have known you and all the other students who lived with us or simply spent time getting to know us. Thank you.

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