- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Immigration officials yesterday reversed a post-September 11 security directive that would have barred Canadian and Mexican students from enrolling part-time in U.S. colleges.
Colleges just within the U.S. border can continue to accept part-time foreign students, but the students will be required to have more paperwork to make their daily commutes across the border, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said.
For Mexican students, in particular, this could mean months of waiting for foreign-student visas.
Citing security concerns after the September 11 attacks, the INS announced in the spring that U.S. colleges could not accept new part-time students from Canada and Mexico.
The proposal drew heavy outcry from students and universities.
"This new rule will prevent the significant disruption of part-time studies, which have become an accepted fact of life along our borders with Mexico and Canada," INS Commissioner James Ziglar said in a statement yesterday announcing the revised policy.
Under federal law, foreigners going to school in the United States cannot be classified as visitors, but they cannot be called students unless they carry a course load of at least 12 credits.
For years, border points like El Paso, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., have made exceptions for part-time Canadian and Mexican students, who entered on daily visitor passes and travel visas.
Under the revised policy, Mexican students must have foreign-student visas and Canadians must show border inspectors copies of I-20 immigration forms, which indicate they are enrolled in a school.
Students must attend INS-approved schools no farther than 75 miles from the border.
Part-time students who were already studying in the United States must obtain the same documents required of new students by the beginning of 2003.
Marlene Johnson, executive director of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said the new policy recognizes the links between border communities.
INS spokesman Dan Kane said processing times for I-20s depend on how quickly the school does the paperwork.
Ed Dickens, spokesman for consular affairs, said foreign-student visa applicants can expect to wait six to eight weeks and possibly longer. Men between 16 and 45 have to fill out extra forms, he said.
"Students in particular who are in certain areas of study that have security implications, such as biochemistry or nuclear physics, would also have to expect long processing times for their visas," Mr. Dickens said.
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadians do not need visas to enter the United States, Mr. Kane said.
College officials on both borders were happy to hear of the new policy. Robert Murphy, student affairs vice president at D'Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y., said the school spent the summer trying to find ways to make it possible for the students to legally attend classes.
Seventeen miles from the U.S.-Mexican border, 15 of 425 international students at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg are part-time students, mostly studying international business. Many more would come if they could cross easily, said Phil Clay, international-student adviser.
"It will give us a big boost for our foreign-student population," Mr. Clay said.
Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, who was sponsoring legislation that would allow the border students to attend classes, said he is happy with the policy change but wants to improve it.

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