Foreign Students in the United States: Policies and Legislation [Updated October 11, 2006]   [open pdf - 211KB]

"Five years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by foreign nationals-including several terrorists on student visas-the security concerns over foreign student visas are being supplanted by competitiveness concerns. Potential foreign students, as well as all aliens, must satisfy Department of State (DOS) consular officers abroad and immigration inspectors upon entry to the United States that they are not ineligible for visas under the so-called 'grounds for inadmissibility' of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which include security and terrorist concerns. The consular officers who process visa applicants are required to check the National Counterterrorism Center's (NCTC) automated lookout systems before issuing any visa. In part because of these security measures, student visa debates have shifted from security to market-based discussions. Higher education institutions in the United States are concerned over their ability to attract the numbers and quality of foreign students, and whether the new post-September 11 security measures impede the entry of potential students into the U.S. education system. The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) increasingly rely on foreign students, and these fields hold a top priority with most research institutions. Furthermore, the U.S. economy has shown a high demand for the skill-sets produced in these fields of study, and the STEM students provide a crucial link between the academic community and the labor market. Consequently, with the easing of security concerns, many groups in higher education and the private sector are seeking to expand pathways for foreign students to emigrate."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31146
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