International Student Enrollment Drops By 43%: President-Elect Joe Biden Offers Green Cards For F1 Visa Holders

Under the Trump administration, international students coming to the U.S. on F1 visas have been continuously targeted. This coupled with the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, the overall foreign student enrollment in the U.S. has dropped significantly. 

Reason for concern: In the 2018-19 academic year alone, foreign students in the U.S. have contributed approximately 45 billion to the U.S. economy!

Numbers To Get Perspective

  • This academic year: 2020-21, enrollment of international students dropped by 43%;
  • This has impacted 90% of the academic institutions across U.S.
  • Almost 40,000 students have chosen to defer their admissions to subsequent semester;
  • Over 20% have opted for online learning. 
  • Many international students have returned to their home countries.
International Student Enrollment Drops By 43%: President-Elect Joe Biden Offers Green Cards For F1 Visa Holders

President-Elect Joe Biden acknowledges that he has to make some immediate changes to the U.S. immigration system as soon as he takes charge of office at the White House. Apart of reversing some of the travel and entry bans imposed on foreign skilled workers, he proposes a couple of measures to address the international student populations as well.

Automatic Green Card For U.S. Graduates

Among his proposed plan of actions, Biden believes that foreign students graduating with a PhD doctoral program from the U.S. should be given permanent residency in the U.S. This is countering Trump’s restrictive measures claiming that foreign students are indirectly involved in intellectual theft of American information.

According to President-elect Biden, retaining these highly-trained workers within the U.S. will support our own economic competitiveness.

Cap Exemption

Biden also proposes to exempt graduates studying in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs from any cap. This would mean that there will not be any limit on how many can seek a work visa, a green card and eventually U.S. citizenship if they have graduated from a U.S. based university.

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These measures are being evaluated due to the many restrictive policies President Trump imposed on F1 student visa holders. This included a temporary suspension of visa processing. As a result, Indian students, for example were granted only 15,000 visas between October 2019 and September 2020.

The following visa restrictions were imposed on F1 international students in the recent past:

  • Unlawful Presence: international students who overstayed their visas could be penalized with a 10-year ban from reentering the country.
  • SEVIS Fee: DHS increased various fees applicable to F1 students including their mandatory I-90 SEVIS fee from $180 to $220 and the certification petition fee from $1,700 to $3,000.
  • Maximum Period of Authorized Stay: International students had to seek permission to stay for period of their coursework in the U.S. This not only increased paperwork and delays but also deterred many students from coming in the first place.
  • Studying During The Pandemic: A new policy needed international students enrolled in online-only courses to be deported if they couldn’t be on campus during the pandemic.
  • Fixed Period Stay: International students would be limited to a fixed 4-year stay and have to apply for an extension if they needed to stay longer.

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