Opinion: NYU needs to support its documented dreamers

International students come from different backgrounds, and it’s time NYU provides resources for all of us.


Alex Tran

File photo: In addition to F-1/J-1 international students, “documented dreamers” with H-4 visas face a set of unique challenges studying at NYU. (Alex Tran for WSN)

Naisha Roy, Staff Writer

When most people think of international students, they imagine them moving across the world with their suitcases in hand, saying goodbye to their family and friends, ready to begin a life in a foreign country. These students are typically on either an F1 or J1 visa, a visa classification for temporary visitors to the United States for the purpose of pursuing higher education. 

However, there is a different class of international students barely recognized by the student body or most colleges themselves: documented dreamers. The Congressional Research describes us as “children of nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary) workers who face the prospect of aging out of lawful status or may have already done so.” Most of them are on an H-4 visa and follow a completely different immigration process than other international students.

In other words, they are dependents of immigrants who came here to work, but when they turn 21, they lose this dependency status and their means of staying in the country. Despite having spent the majority of their lives in the United States, most colleges, including NYU, consider them the equivalent of international students. 

According to NYU’s Office of Global Services, around 250 undergraduate students enrolled during the 2020-21 academic year fell into a visa category labeled “other,” and since many other visas do not allow for study in the United States, it’s safe to assume this refers to mainly documented dreamers. As a university known for its nearly one-third international student population and diverse student body, NYU needs to provide more resources for students in this situation.

Since most documented dreamers cannot obtain a work permit under “usual circumstances,” they are unable to apply for a job or paid internship. This is different from the typical F-1 or J-1 international student, who can work university-sponsored jobs for up to 20 hours per week. Despite this, NYU has no list of alternative resources for documented dreamers who cannot work, which could include programs that allow them to volunteer at the different learning centers around campus or a guide to alternative ways of bolstering their resumes.

Universities also lack transparency about financial aid for international students, and this applies to documented dreamers. NYU requires all international students to fill out the College Scholarship Service Profile because many do not have a social security number and cannot file a FAFSA application.

Although a traditional international student will have a very different financial background and paperwork than one whose entire life has been in the United States, universities such as NYU make them follow the same nebulous process to apply for aid. 

NYU’s website reads that “NYU is able to offer scholarships for non-U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents applying as first-year students,” which includes all international students and documented dreamers. However, it does not explain whether or not the aid these students require will be a factor in their admissions decision. By clearly explaining their terminology, how financial need is determined, and whether citizenship and visa status affects it, NYU could save hundreds of students a lot of heartache.

As someone who currently holds an H-4 visa, immigration is a long, complicated and often dehumanizing process. For students who don’t feel like they belong to either category, international or domestic, this process is only exacerbated by universities’ continued lack of transparency. NYU can’t change government immigration laws or the visa status of its students, but at the very least, the university can provide a more comprehensive and nuanced list of resources for those in this situation.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Naisha Roy at [email protected].