Trump Administration Considers Measure to Make Staying in U.S. Harder for Foreign Students

Senior officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are reportedly considering a controversial plan to require more than one million international students to reapply annually to stay in the United States.

The proposal, first reported in The Washington Post, would require regulatory changes and so is far from a done deal. But coming on top of the Trump administration’s travel ban, it could prove to be a substantial blow to American colleges, which are already struggling to convince prospective students and their families that the United States is a welcoming place to study.

Homeland Security officials apparently believe that closer monitoring of students would increase national security. International students, however, are already among the most scrutinized foreign travelers to the United States, under a student-visa system put in place following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

According to the Post, the department is considering other measures, including applying end dates to students’ study programs that would force them to reapply to stay in the United States if they moved between programs or institutions, such as between undergraduate and graduate programs. Students can typically remain in the United States on a single visa as long as they are enrolled in college and follow the rules.

Any regulatory change would take months and require buy-in by the State Department, which issues student visas. And such a change is sure to be opposed by American colleges, for which it would create additional costs and paperwork. International students are an important source of talent, particularly on the graduate level, and have become increasingly critical to institutions’ bottom lines. Overseas students contributed an estimated $36 billion to the American economy last year, according to the Commerce Department.

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