New options help students hurt by Asian financial crisis

The recent economic crisis in the Pacific Rim nations led the United States to re-evaluate its employment regulations for students from these crisis-riddled countries.

Now, foreign students are less restricted in their options for taking jobs to finance their education.

The economic strain has devalued the nations’ currencies – a burden for students who relied on their families to financially support their U.S. education. That has some GW students worried about whether they will be able to pay the bills for their education.

In the wake of the new federal government policy, GW officials are analyzing the rules in an attempt to assist foreign students who attend the University.

To remedy the financial problems of Asian students studying in the U.S., a rule developed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service amends regulations governing the employment of students from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines on F-1 student visas – the documents that allow foreign students to study in the United States.

The rule temporarily suspends requirements for on-campus and off-campus employment for F-1 students as long as they meet the requirements of their visas.

The modification allows F-1 students to work on-campus more than 20 hours a week during the academic year to relieve economic constraints, according to the rules posted in the Federal Register.

The new rule also has changed the nature of off-campus employment for foreign students. F-1 students can now obtain authorization to work off-campus for more than 20 hours a week by showing proof of economic hardship stemming from the economic crisis, even if they have not lived in the U.S. for a year – the previous standard.

The rule provides an additional avenue for F-1 students to finance their education while they study in the U.S., said David Fosnocth, associate director of GW’s International Services Office.

But the interim rule also provides INS an immediate means to handle emergency situations in the Pacific Rim nations and any other countries that may find themselves under economic strain, according to the Federal Register.

Students’ “duration of status” also has been modified temporarily.

Previously, the INS required F-1 students to enroll in a full course of study – 12 or more credits. If they enrolled in fewer, they violated the terms of their visa.

The new rule allows graduate students to enroll in three credit hours, and undergraduate students to enroll in six credit hours without violating their visas. U.S. attorney general Janet Reno will decide when the rule no longer applies.

But to enroll in fewer credit hours, students must prove to the designated INS official at their university that the additional number of hours they work to finance their education hinders their ability to take a full course load, said Steven Bennett, ISO assistant director.

He said it is an if-then scenario that requires students to consult and receive authorization from school officials before taking any action regarding course load or employment.

Fosnocth said ISO advises students on an individual basis, but the office has not drafted a standard policy to implement the new rule.

“We’re in a state of analysis to assess the value (of the rule),” he said. “We want to set up a system that will streamline the process.”

Fosnocth said the implementation of the new rule has dominated the weekly meetings of ISO, which handles issues concerning international students.

Both Fosnocth and Bennett emphasized the need for students to seek advising from school officials before taking any steps.

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