NAFSA Priorities for Immigration Reform

NAFSA supports creating an immigration process that serves our nation’s current and future needs. We urge Congress to act swiftly to enact legislation that expands our ability to attract the world's talented students and scholars to our colleges and universities, strengthens our economy, and reclaims the values that make this nation a land of opportunity, equality, and freedom for all.

To achieve this, legislation must remove unnecessary obstacles for foreign students to enter United States to study or conduct research, ease the path to green cards, and provide a path to citizenship for DREAMers. The following list of recommendations addresses challenges facing foreign students:

1. Expand Dual Intent to Include Foreign Students

Educated students are exactly the kinds of immigrants we should encourage to stay in the United States. We should not force them, before they even start their studies, to say that they have no intention of staying, working, and contributing to the economies and communities of the United States after they graduate.

  • Dual intent, now available to certain highly skilled and educated professionals, must be expanded to include all foreign students studying to receive a bachelor's degree or higher degree. Because we need talent from all fields of study, this must not be limited solely to STEM degree graduates. We unduly limit our competitiveness and potential to innovate when we focus too narrowly on specific disciplines.
  • More and more foreign students are choosing to study in countries with friendlier immigration policies. To maintain both the competitiveness of our higher education institutions and the $26.8 billion foreign students contribute to our economy annually, we need to reform our policies to expand dual intent. (View the economic benefit accrued to individual districts and states at www.nafsa.org/economicvalue).

2. Ease the Path to Green Cards to Meet the Needs of the United States

There are not enough green cards available to meet our country's needs. For employment-based immigration, only 140,000 green cards are available annually. We can no longer afford to turn away talented individuals or make them wait decades to obtain a green card.  

  • Other countries openly take advantage of restrictive American laws. For example, Canada regularly advertises their more favorable laws in U.S. newspapers and on billboards in our communities.
  • The lack of geen cards places pressure on H-1B visas and other temporary work statuses as these are then used to bridge the time period while immigrants wait to become permanent residents of our society. This negatively impacts our economy by forcing those students to wait to purchases houses, cars, and keeps them from putting down permanent roots in this country.

3. Restore the Authority of the Secretary of State to Waive Personal Appearances By Visa Applicants

In order to wisely focus resources and increase efficiency in our immigration system, the Secretary of State must have the ability to waive, as appropriate, personal appearances by those seeking a visa to travel to the United States and who pose no security risk.

  • The current blanket requirement that nearly all visa applicants be interviewed increases wait times and requires an enormous diversion of enforcement resources into routine interviews of applicants who present no concerns. Requiring consular officers to waste time on brief, pro-forma interviews with low-risk visitors does little to enhance our security and can be very costly for talented foreign students wishing to gain entry into the United States.
  • Available technology and risk-assessment can expedite the interviews and granting of visas. This is especially important in the cases of both:
    • visitors who have already cleared a background check and have a history of visa approval, and
    • scholars, in valid status, who decide to leave the country temporarily and require a new visa to return to the same program.

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