As we near the end of April and the conclusion of the spring 2021 semester, we are also approaching the 100th day in office for President Biden. While his administration has been vocal about working to reverse many immigration policies of the Trump administration, much of the work in this area takes time. Given this, here is a review of where things stand right now on several key immigration priorities for Duke and what may change as many colleges and universities are planning for the 2021-2022 academic year.

1) Reopening consulates and embassies is a top priority

Despite progress on many fronts in the battle against the COVID pandemic, there are still lasting effects impacting many international students. Notably, many international travel restrictions remain in place. While at the same time many U.S. consulates and embassies are still closed to in-person interviews which are currently required for student visa approvals.

Duke has joined many peer schools and higher education associations in urging the State Department and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize student visa applications. While some progress is being made, for instance in India, Duke and others in higher education are urging the Administration to maintain flexibility for international students through the fall 2021 semester as visa processing works to catch up from the backlog built up over the course of the pandemic.

Recommended steps to address these issues were outlined in a letter sent to Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas on behalf of major higher education associations, many of which Duke is member.

2) DACA recipients deserve long-term stability

Higher education associations and industry leaders have submitted multiple letters to the Senate urging their passage of the Dream Act of 2021, which was recently passed by the House of Representatives. While the Dream Act of 2021 does not represent a comprehensive approach to all immigration issues, Duke recognizes it is an important first step in addressing several key priorities for our student and employee recipients of DACA.

President Price recently joined other leaders from the Carolinas in urging Congress to take up important immigration related legislation.

President Biden has also signed Executive Orders on preserving and fortifying DACA and restoring faith in our legal immigration system. Additionally, DHS Secretary Mayorkas has reiterated the Department’s intent to issue new rules in support of the President’s EO.

3) Likelihood of Congressional action on visas remains uncertain

As is always the case, there are numerous proposals in Congress to change the visa system in the United States. Many are simply partisan messaging bills staking out positions to restrict or expand visa access.

However, there is bipartisan agreement in Congress on some areas that would impact Duke, including changing the per-country visa caps and security concerns, particularly from Chinese nationals. Any legislative changes to visa policy would likely be part of a broader immigration package that the Biden administration is currently negotiation for with Congress. While the likelihood of passage and scope of immigration legislation remains uncertain, Duke and the higher education associations remain in constant contact with the administration and Congress about our priorities.