Policy Summary

The Trump Administration and ICE have announced the State Department will not issue visas to international students who are enrolled in colleges/universities that switch to online learning come fall semester. Customs and Border Protection will enforce these changes and prevent such students from entering the US. International students who currently reside in the US will have to return home or transfer to an institution that has some in-person learning. Failure to comply could result in removal proceedings. Many schools are grappling with the tough decision to re-open their campuses amidst increasing COVID-19 infections. They now are looking at potentially losing international student enrollment. Elite institutions like Harvard and Princeton have made plans to adhere to remote learning for the upcoming school year, but still bring back up to 40% of undergrads to campus. However, this will no longer include international students.

In 2019, more than one million international students studied at American institutions and about 57% of international students were comprise of Chinese, Indian, and South Korean students.


The Association of International Educators estimates international students studying in the US contribute $41 billion to the US economy. They bring diversity to campuses, drive innovation, global competitiveness, and prepare domestic students for increasingly globalized work environments. State schools rely pretty heavily on tuition and fee revenue, so the potential loss of international student enrollment could be detrimental. The US higher education system cannot afford to lose these students financially, academically, and ethically. These changes will hurt students, schools and the US economy and the negative outcome will far outweigh the false positives the Trump Administration touts to its xenophobic support base.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • Border Network for Human Rights: network to engage education, organization and participation of border communities to defend human rights and work towards a society where everyone is equal in rights and dignity.
  • World Health Organization: the WHO provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and global responses
  • Center for Disease Control: the CDC provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and the US responses
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