The Department of State issued its annual Student and Exchange Visitor Visa Update [STATE 047061, 05/10] to consulates worldwide. The April 4, 2010 cable covers the following topics:

  • Visa Appointment Wait Times
  • Students and Lesser‐Known Programs
  • Reporting Suspect Schools
  • Summer Work and Travel Program Participant Timely Return
  • Flight Training and Certification
  • Study Incidental to Visit vs. Principal Purpose of Admission
  • SEVIS CCD Reports

The cable is similar to prior annual cables, however the following are of particular note:

  • In response to continued reports of consular offices who are unreceptive to applications from prospective students at community colleges, DOS states in the cable that such action is “at odds with CA policy.”

  • On the importance of the U.S. educational product, the cable states:

The U.S. educational sector regularly creates new formats and packaging to keep their products in the public eye. Following the economic downturn, U.S. educational institutions have stepped up overseas recruiting efforts, especially in countries where the language of instruction is English or that have an increasing demand for educated citizens who are adept in English. U.S. educational institutions may be considered a "good buy" with the decline in the value of the dollar. In addition, the United States may also be perceived to offer a level of institutional support that does not exist in other countries.

  • Finally, on the topic of short-term incidental study on a B-2 visa, the cable goes into some detail, stating:

13. Several posts have raised instances in which U.S. institutions offer courses for foreign students that strain the definition of "study incidental to visit," particularly in the case of summer programs. In such cases, we remind posts that 9 FAM 41.31 N6.1 instructs you that "an alien desiring to come to the United States for one principal, and one or more incidental purposes, should be classified in accordance with the principal purpose." That means that posts need to make some findings as to what actually goes on in these courses. If the student plans to spend a week or more of full‐time study (more than 18 hours per week) for academic credit or completion of an academic program of study in the United States, an F‐1 or M‐1 visa is appropriate.

14. Many of these summer programs, however, are marketing programs aimed at exposing high school students to a variety of subjects they might be interested in pursuing at the higher educational level rather than at providing students with any substantive academic instruction. Typically, the class instruction is often coupled with social and other activities. The fact that the courses are offered by an academic institution should cause you to look into the activity more closely, but it should not preclude B‐2 classification of the activity if circumstances warrant it. Don't forget to annotate those visas, "STUDY INCIDENTAL TO VISIT‐Form I‐20 NOT REQUIRED."

15. If posts find applicants will be engaged in something other than a week or more of full‐time study, and that the course is neither offered for academic credit, nor required for completion of an academic program of study, then the activity may be properly classifiable as B‐1 as an educational convention or seminar.