Foreign and Refugee Students


Since taking office in January 2017, the current administration has made several decisions that will impact the ability of foreign nationals to pursue higher education studies in the United States. This page aims to summarize these decisions as they are announced and provide updates as necessary.  For legal advice related to the recent immigration policy changes, please contact an immigration attorney or an accredited representative of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Travel Ban and Extreme Vetting

Earlier this year President Trump announced Executive Order 13769 (January 2017) and Executive Order 13780 (March 2017). These orders, often referred to as “travel bans,” sought to suspend the entry of visitors from seven majority Muslim countries and were found to be partially unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued the “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.” It reports the results of the worldwide review conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, as tasked in Executive Order 13780. The review assessed and developed a new baseline “for the kinds of information required from foreign governments to support the United States Government's ability to confirm the identity of individuals seeking entry into the United States as immigrants and nonimmigrants.” Countries that did not meet these criteria were deemed “inadequate,” and it was recommended that entry restrictions and limitations be established for nationals of these countries. The following countries were identified as “inadequate:” Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. As a result, the Proclamation establishes varying restrictions to travel from these countries. This NAFSA resource provides a breakdown of the regulations established by country.

The Proclamation also does away with the exemption made in the previous travel ban for those applicants with “bona fide” relationships with the US. This is critical as the “bona fide” relationship status included international students and scholars who were enrolled in or employed by higher education institutions. Starting October 18, 2017, the restrictions will apply to all nationals from the countries deemed “inadequate,” including those who have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” However, an exception exists for students of Iran on F, M, and J visas. NACAC encourages member institutions to seek legal counsel about what guidance they should provide to enrolled international students, particularly those from these countries.

The January Executive Order also called for what is commonly referred to as “extreme vetting.” Consequently, the US 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 US 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.

This new mandate replaced the executive orders released earlier this year, and stalled the Supreme Court case that was scheduled to present oral arguments on October 10, 2017. The parties have resubmitted their briefs detailing the viability of the case after the new restrictions. The Justices are expected to decide whether they will reschedule or drop the case in the coming weeks.

While the fate of the Supreme Court case is yet to be decided, on October 17 and 18, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland partially blocked the latest iteration of the ban deeming it unconstitutional for targeting majority-Muslim nations. The block applies to six of the eight countries named in the September proclamation, however the restriction and limitations set upon nationals of North Korea and Venezuela were allowed to go into effect.

NACAC believes these decisions will have immediate and long-term consequences on the attractiveness of the United Sates as an education destination and the many US high schools and colleges that serve international students. Read NACAC’s statements opposing these executive orders: January 30, 2017; March 7, 2017; October 18, 2017joint statement with other education associations.


Country Specific Updates

  • Turkey: As of October 8, 2017, the US indefinitely suspended the processing of non-immigrant visas in Turkey.

    According to a
    statement released via Twitter
    by the US Embassy in Turkey, the US has suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities in Turkey. This is a result of “recent events” that have caused the US government to “reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel.”

  • Russia: Starting September 1, 2017 nonimmigrant visas to the US will only be processed through the Moscow Embassy.

    On August 21, 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia announced that it will temporarily suspend issuing nonimmigrant visas, including student visas, at all locations until September 1, 2017. Thereafter, 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.” Applicants seeking nonimmigrant visas must 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 US Embassy to determine the status of their application.


Counseling and Admission


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