Indians and other foreigners enrolled in US colleges and universities could be required to apply for permission to stay every year if the Donald Trump administration approves a move currently being considered by the department of homeland security.
The proposal, first reported by The Washington Post, is linked to the administration’s overall plan to tighten national security. But it is still at a very preliminary stage and could take up to 18 months to be rolled out, if approved for implementation.
An estimated 166,000 Indians were enrolled in US colleges in 2016, and together with those from China, accounted for 47% of all foreign students in America, according to Open Door, a government-funded body that studies and tracks international students and scholars.
Also under consideration as part of the same package is a move to attach an end date to the study programme, requiring students to reapply for permission to stay if they move from one programme to another — such as undergraduate to graduation.
If a student isn’t able to finish the programme in time, he or she could be asked to reapply.
These moves, which could make studying in the US more expensive and tedious, are likely to be resisted by American colleges and universities, which actively court international students to increase diversity on their campuses and for the money they make from full tuitions paid by foreigners.
There is an overall impact on the US economy as well. At a White House briefing to preview Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in June, a senior administration official had said Indian students generated an estimated $5 billion in economic activity and supported 64,000 American jobs. That will not be an easy sacrifice for an administration as focussed on jobs as this one.
There are already worries about a drop in the number of admissions, with a large number of colleges and universities reporting a decline in applications, according to a survey earlier in the year, citing “‘a great deal of concern’ from students and their families about visas and perceptions of a less welcoming climate in the US”.