Foreign and Refugee Students


Since January 2017, several developments have occurred that impact the ability of foreign students to study in the United States.  This page attempts to summarize each; however, NACAC encourages you to speak with an immigration attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals–accredited representative if you are working with a foreign student interested in studying in the U.S.

NACAC will provide updates as appropriate.


On August 21, 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia announced that it will temporarily suspend issuing nonimmigrant visas, including student visas, until Sept. 1, 2017. Beginning Sept. 1, the Embassy will conduct visa interviews at the Moscow location only. The U.S. State Department stated that “visa operations at the U.S. consulates will remain suspended indefinitely,” so applicants seeking nonimmigrant visas will need to travel to Moscow to complete the application process. This suspension and subsequent changes will likely lead to significant delays for Russians applying for nonimmigrant visas, including those with pending applications.  Students and other applicants should contact the U.S. Embassy for the status of their application. 


On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States" and issued a related fact sheet.  The executive order directs the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to temporarily suspend visa issuance for 90 days to individuals from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya seeking to enter the United States (often referred to as a “travel ban”). The order also called for the State Department to develop additional screening procedures for all foreign visitors to the U.S. from certain countries (sometimes referred to as “extreme vetting”). The order as written does not apply to F, M, or J visa holders whose visas were valid and effective prior to the order issuance. NACAC issued a statement opposing this executive order. 

The executive order was blocked by several federal courts.  However, the Supreme Court allowed a "limited version" of the ban to take effect, partially lifting the injunctions set by lower courts. The Court did “make an important exception: It said the ban ‘may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States’” (Washington Post). “Bona fide” relationships may include “students accepted into U.S. universities or employees who have accepted jobs within the U.S.” (CNN). The Supreme Court noted in the order that the bona fide relationship must be “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course," rather than for the purpose of evading the executive order (Supreme Court decision, pg 12). For students, this may include an acceptance letter or proof of admission to a United States institution. Individuals who lack bona fide relationships will be affected by the ban.  NACAC encourages member institutions to seek legal counsel about what guidance they should provide to enrolled international students.

The legal battle related to the travel ban did not affect the extreme vetting sections of the executive order.  Consequently, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would request those selected for extreme vetting to provide “all prior passport numbers, five years’ worth of social media handles, email addresses, phone numbers, and 15 years of biographical information when applying for a U.S. visa." Technically, this information is not required, but failing to include it may result in the delay or rejection of an application.  The changes are expected to last through November 2017, but may continue after.

The following organizations and affiliates may be useful resources for any questions you may have regarding executive orders, finding immigration lawyers, or navigating the international college admission process:

Counseling and Admission Professionals

Individuals Applying to U.S. Institutions

  • IIEPEER, a database of universities, scholarships, and organizations with resources for students attempting to study outside of Syria
  • U.S. Embassy, a fact sheet for Russians affected by change to visa process

Individuals and Families Seeking Legal Resources

Relevant News

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