Year to year declines in international students have concerned American universities. Now in addition are major delays in processing F-1 student visas this summer.
Universities have written to Washington to expedite visa issuances by the USCIS or else face a precipitous decline in the flow of international talent.
For undergraduates, new enrollments fell 2.9% from their peak in 2015-16 to 2016-17 and again by 6.3% the year after. Graduate new enrollments are following a similar trend, down 6.8% from their high point in 2015-16 to 2017-18, according to data from the Institute of International Education.
Harvard notes that the delays have “hindered or endangered their post-graduate work and, in some cases, their medical residencies.” This, in addition to the frustration caused to employers who’ve been waiting for new talent to add to the workforce.
Colleges believe the delays are due to new and complex visa screening procedures and changes to policies on how visa holders accrue “unlawful presence,” which largely stem from heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric and concerns about foreign students related to national security.
“Protracted visa delays. Harsh rhetoric against most immigrants and a range of other groups, because of religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. Together, such actions and policies have turned the volume all the way up on the message that the U.S. is closing the door — that we no longer seek to be a magnet for the world’s most driven and creative individuals,” wrote MIT President L. Rafael Reif in a letter to the university community on June 25.