The federal government (the Department of Homeland Security) has increased the types of visas available to non-immigrants from 13 to 22. Visas consist of a letter (A - V) and a number (1 or 2). The number indicates whether the visaholder is the primary visitor to the U.S. (indicated by a 1) or the spouse or dependent of a visitor (indicated by a 2). The letters indicate why the visa was issued. For instance, most schools are familiar with F-1 and J-1 visaholders. Both indicate student status, and the "1" indicates that the student is here without parents. Here is the listing of the rest of the alphabet:
B Tourist or business traveler
C In transit
D Alien crewman of a vessel or aircraft operating in the U.S.
E Alien here under a treaty of commerce or navigation
F Non-exchange student
G Member of foreign government
H Temporary worker, including agricultural worker
J Exchange student, but also includes professors and researchers
K Fiancee of U.S. citizen in country to conclude a valid marriage
L Managerial or executive employee of foreign country in U.S. for business
M Student at vocational or "nonacademic" institution
N Child of a member of the foreign press
O Scientist, artist, actor, athlete
P Same as "O" but length of stay is briefer under "P"
Q Part of cultural exchange program
R Member of religious denomination working for the denomination in U.S.
S Witness giving testimony for U.S. in federal criminal prosecution
T Victim of human trafficking
U Victim of other criminal activity who suffered substantial abuse
Reminder about Non-immigrant Students and Athletics
Note that one major change affects foreign exchange students (J-1 visa holders) and their eligibility to immediately participate in varsity interscholastic sports. Effective July 1, 2006, such students have immediate eligibility (assuming they meet academic and physical examination requirements) UNLESS the student is in the United States primarily for purposes of participating in athletics. An amendment to Iowa Code section 256.46 states that a foreign exchange student who attends school "for primarily athletic purposes" is also subject to the 90 school days of ineligibility to participate at the varsity level.
International Student Enrollment
Below is a summary of the Department of Education's guidance to school districts regarding international students.
- Students with J-1 (foreign exchange students) visas: While districts do not have to enroll a student with a J-1 visa, the Department strongly urges that districts do so. By state law, such students have immediate eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletics. Districts receive no state dollars for enrolling J-1 students.
- Students with F-1 visas: These are students who come to live with a non-parent relative (or even a non-relative), but because they are not foreign exchange students, the school becomes the sponsor by signing up with SEVIS. Federal law requires that the school charge full tuition of F-1 students. These students are ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics for their first 90 consecutive school days.
- Students with B-2 or similar dependent visas (those that end in the number 2): These students live with a parent; therefore, the Department allows districts to consider them as residents of the district, enrolling them tuition-free.
- Immigrant students (non-visa holders): The first three categories above deal with non-immigrant students; that is, students who do not intend to make the U.S. their permanent home. It is perfectly legal to ask for the visa status of a non-immigrant student. (See next item for summary of visa classifications.) On the other hand, immigrant students are those who reside in the U.S. with the intention that the residency be permanent. Districts are to consider ONLY whether such students and their families reside in the district. If yes, districts are absolutely forbidden to ask about whether the student and family are in the U.S. legally. Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Plyler v. Doe, districts provide a tuition-free education and all educational programming and services that are provided to other resident students.