Proposals to Help Families of Foreign Students

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has submitted proposed regulatory changes intended to improve the F-1 and M-1 student programs. The changes potentially would provide more resources in the form of additional designated school officials (DSOs). The proposals would also provide better options to F-1 and M-1 dependent family members who wish to study in the United States.

Background: Recommendations and Proposal

The proposed changes to the F-1 and M-1 student program regulations stem from the recommendations made by the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC), a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These recommendations continue U.S. efforts to attract foreign students, without compromising security needs.

Proposal Would Permit More DSOs per Campus

The proposed changes to the regulations controlling ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) would provide some additional flexibility to authorized schools with respect to the number of DSOs each school may utilize. The proposed regulation would eliminate the current limit of ten DSOs allowed per campus, making it possible for a school to add more DSOs, if required, in order to better serve the needs of the students and the school.

Family Members Could Become Part-Time Students Under Proposal

Currently, the children of F-1 and M-1 students are permitted to attend primary and secondary school (kindergarten through completion of high school). Spouses and children are not permitted to engage in higher-level studies, and are limited to taking classes related to hobbies or that are recreational in nature.

The proposed regulatory changes would allow spouses and children of F-1 and M-1 students to study at SEVP-certified schools. They would be limited to part-time study, but could be used even if the studies may eventually lead to a degree or certificate. The DHS still maintains that F-2 and M-2 spouses and children need to apply to change status if they wish to engage in full-time, higher-level studies. However, the DHS recognizes that many potential students will feel more at-ease knowing that their dependents will have several options for taking courses while in the United States. Accordingly, this should help the United States to continue attracting many of the best students in the world.

Proposal Not Yet Final

Again, at the time of this writing, these regulatory changes are merely a proposal, so these rules are not yet in effect. The proposed regulations currently are open to public comment, as required by law. Comments may be submitted to ICE until January 21, 2014 by following the instructions provided on the government’s WebSite. After this date, ICE must review and consider the public comments, and then decide whether to enact the proposed regulations, and, if the decision is made to do so, whether to first make changes to the proposed regulations.


The proposed changes, particularly the allowance for F-2 and M-2 dependents to pursue advanced studies, are likely to be well received by the student population. Interested parties still have time to make their voices heard by submitting comments to ICE. MurthyDotCom will provide readers with updates on this proposed regulatory change as more information becomes available.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.