HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new federal policy is creating frustration for international students across the country and here in Hawaii.
Last month, President Trump signed Proclamation 10014, which suspends “entry of aliens who present a risk to the U.S. labor market following the coronavirus outbreak.”
That proclamation therefore bars immigrants and non-immigrants with certain visas from entering the U.S.
The visas barred under PP10014 are the H-1B, H-2B, J and L visas. The J visa, also known as the Exchange Visitor Visa, is in part designated for people participating in work and study-based programs.
Confusion, however, stems from the fact that there are 14 categories of J visa, and only six are technically banned under the proclamation.
Section 2b of the proclamation states that J visas are only banned “to the extent the alien is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program.”
That leaves out several categories of J visa, including those for “student, college/university.”
But some say not everyone understands that and that many prospective exchange-students are being denied entry into the country, even though they should be allowed in.
Vaibhavi Dwivedi, an attorney and graduate student at UH Manoa’s East West Center, says her friend in New Delhi is running into this exact issue.
“He got accepted in UH Law School. He also has a graduate degree fellowship given by the East West Center so he’s on a full scholarship,” Dwivedi said.
“He has all the documentations that are required for him to come inside the country, but the consulates at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi told him that they will not be processing the visa right now because it’s the J1 visa. But they don’t seem to distinguish between the categories.”
Dwivedi says this distinction needs to be clarified, so prospective students who are still allowed in, can come to the U.S. to study.
“It’s a huge problem because a lot of people are giving up their jobs to come here to study their masters program,” Dwivedi said. “These are people who have full scholarships that the U.S. government is providing for them.”
On top of the visa confusion international students are dealing with, many could be barred from staying in the U.S. if their schools move to only online classes.
Right now, UH said it will be using a hybrid class model, where students have the option to take in person or online courses.
If that changes, some students, like Dwivedi, could be sent out of the country.