INS Eases Work Curbs on Some Students From Asia


Responding to the Asian economic crisis, the Immigration and Naturalization Service on Wednesday relaxed guidelines to allow students from five hard-hit nations to work longer hours while studying at U.S. colleges.

The INS unveiled a special relief program to assist about 80,000 students from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand who are enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. A precise state-by-state breakdown was not available, but California institutions of higher education are among the most popular among foreign students.

With Asian currency values plummeting, the INS noted in a statement, many students have found themselves facing “severe economic hardship” as their financial support from home has shrunk.

“There has been a tremendous amount of anxiety on their part, as well as guilt in terms of still being here while their families are struggling overseas,” said Suzanne Blough, who directs the international center at UC Irvine.


The INS decision had been pending for some time and came in response to a request from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

All the people affected hold “F-1" student visas, which allow foreign nationals to attend school here but strictly limit how much they can work while in the United States. In general, such visa holders are restricted to 20 hours of employment weekly while school is in session.

Under the new regimen, affected students will be allowed to work as many hours as they wish, either on or off campus, although anything more than 20 hours a week will require approval of the school.

The INS also is lifting its requirement that these students be here for a full academic year before accepting off-campus jobs.


Moreover, the INS will allow them to take less than a full-time course load--if they secure school approval. However, undergraduates must register for a minimum of six credit hours per semester, and graduate students must sign up for at least three hours.

“For many students, this will allow them to remain legally in the U.S., continue their education and take some of the pressures off themselves and their families while they get through this financial crisis,” Blough said.