Smart Summary for Educators

  • A Department of Homeland Security proposal may change foreign student visas, according to this Washington Post article.
  • The proposal would require foreign students to reapply for their visas every year.
  • This change would create administrative costs for schools and difficulties for students.

Discussions at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may lead to significant changes for foreign higher education students, the Washington Post reports.

Under the proposed changes, foreign students would be required to reapply for permission to stay in the United States every year. Students would also possibly have to reapply if they do not graduate on time, or if they change programs, such as changing majors or moving from undergraduate to graduate school.

Currently, federal regulations allow foreign students to stay in the U.S. for years without having to reapply for immigration status as long as they are enrolled in school, even if they transfer from one educational institution to another.

This proposal is a controversial move that is expected to face resistance from university officials because of the likely significant administrative costs for schools keeping their students’ paperwork current, creating new costs and paperwork for thousands of visa holders, especially for students from China, India and other nations.

Furthermore, the proposed changes could lead to fewer foreign students coming to the U.S.

According to the Institute of International Education, the number of foreign students in U.S. colleges and universities has grown every year since 2006, with a 7 percent increase from the previous year in 2015/16 alone. Foreign students were over 5 percent of the 20 million students enrolled in U.S. higher education that year and added more than $35 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015.

Pedro Ribeiro, a former deputy assistant secretary of homeland security and former assistant ICE director who is currently a spokesman for the Association of American Universities, called the policy “both a policy and logistical nightmare,” saying that DHS and the State Department “simply don’t have enough counselor and immigration personnel to properly administer a change to the visa program like the one proposed,” and that the proposal “would also have a tremendous chilling effect on students who would have to spend more time doing paperwork than studying.”