65 US varsities contest Trump’s visa changes

indica News Bureau –


Top US Universities like Harvard and MIT have contested the Trump administration’s new stringent visa policy for foreign students in a court.

As many as 65 universities have warned that the Department of Homeland Security’s new ‘backdating’ rule will likely result in fewer international students, scholars, and instructors contributing to America’s higher education system.

“This policy will undermine the ability of American colleges and universities to attract and retain the top foreign talent that is critical to our global understanding and leadership in discovery, innovation and economic competitiveness,” Harvard University spokesperson Jonathan L Swain wrote in the Harvard Crimson.

The new immigration policies – announced by the Trump administration in August – place restrictions on overstaying a visa. Under these policies, when an individual is no longer authorized to remain in the US like when a visa expires, a period of “unlawful presence” begins.

After six months of unlawful presence, an individual can be forced to return to their country of origin and subject to a three-year bar from the US.

Before the policy changes, individuals accrued unlawful presence only when the government issued an official determination that the visa holder was “out of status”.

The opposing universities have signed onto an amicus brief objecting to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services policy memorandum’s revision of rules for how unlawful stay time is calculated for visa-holding students.

Most of these universities are members of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration – a coalition of schools that advocates for policies supportive of undocumented, immigrant, and international students.

Filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, the amicus brief supports Guilford College, et al in its lawsuit against US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M Nielsen, et al.

“Under the prior policy, when international students did become aware of a potential issue, they were able to make corrections and request reviews and adjustments, without fearing the accrual of unlawful presence,” the amicus brief stated.

“International students can stay in the country while they seek review and run the risk of accruing additional unlawful presence time, or they can interrupt their studies and leave the country while the issue is being resolved,” the brief added.

The filing includes a 2017 survey of international students applying to US educational institutions in which roughly one-sixth of those surveyed specified “visa restrictions for international students” as a deterrent to studying at US schools.

The brief argued that a 10 percent rise in the ratio of foreign graduate students to total graduate students results in a 5.1 percent increase in patent grants.

As a presidential front-runner, Donald Trump had said that Indians studying in American educational institutions should not be kicked out as the country needs smart people like them.

“Whether we like that or not, they pay, et cetera, et cetera but we educate a lot of people, very smart people. We need those people in the country,” Trump told Fox News when asked about his views on legal immigration.

According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA), international students contributed USD 39 billion to the US economy during the academic year 2017-2018.

The study further found that the economic activity of foreign students supported over 455,000 American jobs.

But, the number of new international students enrolling at US universities and colleges went down by almost 7 percent last year, according to the annual data gathered by the International Institute of Education last month.

The visa application process was the single biggest disincentive, according to the data, but also frequently cited, was the “social and political environment in the US”.

The biggest falls were reported from places such as India, South Korea, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

New data from the annual Open Doors survey showed new undergraduate enrollments fell 6.3 percent, 5.5 percent at the graduate level, and 9.7 percent at the nondegree level from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

The number of graduate and professional students from India, the second-largest country for international students in the US after China, fell significantly by 8.8 percent.

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