US study visa: Colleges swamped by Trump administration policies
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US study visa: Colleges swamped by Trump administration policies

US study visa: Colleges swamped by Trump administration policies

US colleges are struggling with the mounting workload as they jump through hurdles implemented by the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

The Atlantic reported that representatives from 10 schools and various college presidents said their institutions are swamped by increased paperwork requirements and tiresome bureaucratic tasks in their efforts to secure US study visas for their students.

At Franklin & Marshall College, president Barbara K Altmann spoke about how, given the political tensions abroad and the “latest diplomatic skirmish about visas”, they have had to take “extraordinary measure …so international students know [they’re welcome here]”.

Last summer, in an effort to reassure incoming students and their families, it activated a network of Chinese national affiliates, including upperclassmen, to promote the college via social media platforms.

Such measures are the latest addition to an escalating number of reports of difficulties and costs in applying and obtaining US study visas. The latest high-profile cases involved Palestinian Ismail Ajjawi, an incoming freshman at Harvard, who was denied entry to the US last month after customs officials saw social media posts by his friends citing political opposition to the US, he said. After being deported back to Lebanon, he was allowed entry 10 days later. 

Educators trace this state of heightened immigration difficulties back to a memorandum US President Donald Trump signed in 2017. The memorandum called for the “heightened screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits”, as well as new or updated requirements for visa holders studying or working at US colleges.

Since then, the US has increased the number of visas going through extended security checks, increased processing fees, imposed harsher penalties on international students who overstay and delayed the processing of applications from international students and scholars for both internships and jobs.

Speaking to The New York Times, David Ware, an immigration lawyer who works on student visas said: “It’s discourage, delay, deny.”

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In the last few years, international student offices have faced some of the biggest workloads in their history. Source: Shutterstock

The result is a decline in interest among international students for US colleges and universities. A large majority of institutions – 83 percent who took part in the Institute of International Education’s 2017–18 survey – believe the delay and denial of student visas is making the US lose its appeal among international applicants. 

Kristy Magner, who oversees Tulane University’s Office of International Students and Scholars and has been in this field for two decades, told The Atlantic that “the amount of immigration changes during the last three years has been exponential.”

Add to this a hostile political climate and soaring tuition fees, and alternative study abroad destinations like Australia and Canada – with more welcoming immigration policies and post-study work opportunities – are reaping the benefits. While international enrolments to the US fall, these countries rake in the applications. The US saw a close to seven percent decline in the number of new international enrollments in the 2017/18 school year. 

Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, a liberal-arts institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, told The Atlantic: “I think that both [the Trump administration’s] immigration policy and the messaging of the day are literally turning [international] students away…and making them less inclined to want to study in the United States.”

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