Foreign and Refugee Students


Since taking office in January 2017, the Trump 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

In January 2017, President Trump announced Executive Order 13769 which sought to suspend entry into the United States from visitors of seven countries for 90 days. Commonly referred to as "Travel Ban 1.0," the order was declared unconstitutional by a Federal District Court in Washington State and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and was not implemented.

President Trump announced Executive Order 13780 in March 2017, which revoked and replaced Executive Order 13769 and sought to suspend entry from visitors from six countries for 90 days. Several states sued to prevent the order from being implemented; in June 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that "Travel Ban 2.0" could be partially implemented. The 90-day prohibition has since expired.

On Sept. 24, 2017, President Trump issued Proclamation 9645, which reported 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 Proclamation establishes varying restrictions on travel to the US from nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela. An exception exists for students of Iran on F, M, and J visas. On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled this indefinite ban on visitors from these countries as constitutional, meaning students and other individuals traveling to the United States from these seven countries face significant limitations. 

On Jan. 31, 2020, President Trump issued an update to Proclamation 9645, adding varying restrictions to six more countries: Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. These countries failed to meet stricter criteria that resulted from an enhanced worldwide review conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. International students (F-1 visas) are not impacted by this new Proclamation.

NAFSA provides a breakdown of the regulations established by country. 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 2017 Executive Order also called for what is commonly referred to as “extreme vetting.” Following this order, the US Department of required 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." As of June 1, 2019, however, all visa applicants are required to submit any information about social media accounts they have used in the past five years. The change is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year, including international students applying for F-1, J-1, or M-1 visas. 

NACAC believes these decisions will have immediate and long-term consequences on the attractiveness of the United States as an education destination and the many US high schools and colleges that serve international students. Read NACAC’s statement opposing the Supreme Court's June 2018 decision to uphold the proclamation.


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