For the first time in many, many years, the number of international students and scholars at US universities declined.
This decline is attributed to various factors. Uncertainty about visa policies. Instability about OPT and CPT options. And yes, the United States being a less welcoming place to foreign students under the Trump presidency.
Many new immigration policies make it difficult to recruit talented students and scholars to American campuses. This is also impacting US employers’ ability to hire needed foreign talent.
Here are just some of the regulatory actions taken that have made things more difficult for international students.
- New restrictions on the duration of visas for Chinese graduate students
- Changes as to how “unlawful presence” is calculated, increasing the likelihood that international students could face years of restriction on being admitted to the U.S.
- Policy changes making it harder for companies to hire OPT STEM students
- USCIS counting both OPT and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) towards students’ 12 months of practical training, leading to change of status denials on H-1B petitions and
- The Travel Ban
Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS significantly changed its policy as to how international students would be subject to the 3- or 10-year reentry bar provisions. Under the new policy, USCIS will start counting days of unlawful presence the day after any student’s status violation occurs. Under prior policy which had been in place for about 20 years, the unlawful presence clock did not start until a USCIS official or immigration judge made a formal finding of a status violation.
Also, the very existence of the Travel Ban has had a negative impact on international students. It goes beyond students from the banned countries. There has also been bad global publicity surrounding the ban, which doesn’t make the United States look like a very welcoming place to matriculate.