According to data from the Institute of International Education, there are currently 6,892 students from Iran studying at colleges and universities in the United States. PAAIA has been contacted by Iranian students on F-1 visas who are currently experiencing severe financial hardship due to the devaluation of the rial (Iranian currency) and who are finding it difficult to pay for and complete their studies.
An online survey conducted by PAAIA in February 2013 found that 62 percent of Iranian students in the U.S. pay for their tuition and cost of living through support from their family in Iran or through a mix of scholarships and support from family in Iran. 53 percent of the respondents indicated that their financial situation was extremely negatively impacted in 2012, while 36 percent said that it was somewhat negatively impacted that year. Over two-thirds of students indicated that existing restrictions on bringing money to the United States from Iran and the devaluation of the Iranian currency have affected their finances since they entered the United States.
With the permission of the DHS, it is possible for Iranian students to work off-campus. A student with F-1 status facing unexpected financial difficulties beyond his/her control may apply for off-campus work permission from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Furthermore, under certain emergent circumstances impacting a group of non-immigrants, the DHS can grant special student relief and waive any restrictions on F-1 student employment. In the past, the DHS has suspended courseload requirements as well as the number of hours per week students are allowed to work off-campus.
Obtaining employment can help remedy some of the financial circumstances many of these students are currently facing and allow them to continue their studies in the United States.
To this end, PAAIA has contacted the DHS to bring attention to the financial difficulties facing many Iranian students currently studying in the United States, and to request that the DHS grant special student relief for these students’ off-campus work permit applications. In addition, PAAIA has asked that applications by Iranian students based on severe economic hardship be expeditiously processed and requests for application fee waivers be granted when applicable.
It has been the policy of the Obama administration to engage the Iranian people directly, and to encourage Iranian students to come to the U.S. for their education. As the potential future leaders and innovators of Iran, it is of particular importance that these students have a positive experience with America.
By taking the measures outlined above, the DHS can not only help current Iranian students in the U.S., but also ensure a continued educational exchange of bright minds.
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