NAFSA Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee On Value of Foreign Students to the United States



Contact: Bill Roberts, 202-495-2553 or
Katie O'Connell, 202-495-2559 or

For Release: May 13, 2013

May 13, 2013


As strong supporters of S. 744, the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013," we welcome the Committee's upcoming consideration tomorrow of Title IV of the bill, pertaining to reforms to nonimmigrant visa programs. This bill updates the immigration system to reflect the modern age of global mobility in higher education. It offers an opportunity to move forward to make it easier for foreign students to come to America and easier for universities to compete for them.

Several amendments may be offered that would jeopardize this opportunity by placing unnecessary and counterproductive impediments in the way of foreign students who wish to pursue their educational and professional goals in the United States. Although these amendments may be justified by their proponents as adding to our security, the truth is that targeting foreign students does nothing to enhance U.S. security, and in fact only accomplishes the opposite.

Foreign students are an asset to our nation, not a threat. We remind the Committee that it has been the policy of virtually every post-World War II administration, with the consistent support of Congress, to attract and welcome foreign students to the United States, because this is an important way in which the United States fosters ties with the world's future leaders. After learning about America and forming long-lasting friendships, many go on to become leaders in their home countries and whose work contributes to peace and security worldwide. Others remain in the United States to build lives and careers, renewing our country and helping us grow and prosper as immigrants have done throughout our history. The 765,000 foreign students who studied in the United States last year, and their families, contributed nearly $22 billion to the U.S. economy. They brought the world to our campuses and contributed to our universities' educational mission.

We remind the Committee that foreign students and exchange visitors are the only nonimmigrants who are closely monitored throughout their sojourn in the United States. Amendments may be offered based on the misconception that somehow this monitoring system needs to be made more burdensome and intrusive; nothing could be further from the truth. Foreign students and exchange visitors constitute only 4 percent of all nonimmigrant admissions. The other 96 percent, most of whom enter on visitor and business visas, are not monitored at all. The implication that foreign students constitute some kind of unique threat is not borne out by the facts. Eighteen of the 19 Sept. 11 terrorists entered the United States on B (business or tourist) visas. Only one entered on a student visa, and neither of the Boston bombers did. The record does not support the idea that the foreign student provisions in the bill should be conditioned on more intensive monitoring.

We are confident that the Committee will bear these facts in mind as it considers amendments to Title IV, and will seize this opportunity to maximize the asset that foreign students are for the nation.


Jill Welch
Deputy Executive Director, Public Policy
NAFSA: Association of International Educators

Download the letter. (244kb Adobe PDF)