Bush visa plan leaves foreign students in limbo

Elizabeth Putnam

For now, Sulieman Nader attends the University on a scholarship from the government of Jordan.

But increased tracking of international student visas means Nader’s scholarship program could be canceled, he said.

Nader is grandfathered in, so he will retain his scholarship until his education is complete. But if the Jordanian legislation is passed, no one will be able to take his place.

After passing the anti-terrorism package through Congress, President George W. Bush announced Tuesday student visas will be closely watched. Because the visas will be harder to obtain, many other countries could join Jordan in refusing to send students to the United States.

Nader, president of the Minnesota International Student Association, said the tracking is making students question and alter their educational paths.

“My scholarship program is going to be scrapped because of the types of restrictions. Because they think that a lot of people won’t be able to get visas,” Nader said. “I have heard of several students who have considered going home and some who hesitate even going to Canada or Mexico.”

A tracking system was proposed before Sept. 11, but the system has been intensified.

“Several universities object to the system because it only tracks international students,” said Jennifer Schulz, senior editor at the Office of International Programs. “International students only make up 1.8 percent of those with visas.”

Nader said profiling international students is rash and unjust.

“I understand that some people abuse the system, but it is a very small minority,” Nader said. “This is a time where the United States needs to
promote internationalism and diversity education and not to isolate itself.”

Schulz said the University
doesn’t favor specially tracking those on student visas.

“Most educators are advocating wider tracking of all people who come to this country,” Schulz said. “Right now (Immigration and Naturalization Services) has no idea who is coming and when they are leaving or if they are leaving.”

Schulz said the University has not been contacted about tracking international students.

Approzimately 600,000 foreigners are allowed into the United States on student visas each year. Twenty-six thousand colleges and universities are authorized to admit them.

Bush nixed lawmakers’ proposal for a six-month moratorium on new visas, suggesting tracking current visas would be efficient enough. However, lawmakers are still considering a moratorium on certain
countries, Schulz said.

Two suspected Sept. 11 terrorists entered the country on student visas.

Kay Thomas, director of International Student and Scholar Services, said students already at the University probably won’t be greatly affected, but things are still uncertain.

“Currently we are advising students not to travel unless they need to and to pay increased attention to maintaining their status and documentation,” Thomas said.

The Office of Admissions evaluates the credentials of international students before they are admitted. If they meet all requirements, they are issued an I-20 and must explain how they plan to fund their education.

“We have had no changes in the student visa and current student regulations that we work with,” said admissions director Wayne Sigler.

Sigler said it’s too early in the admission process to say if there will be a decrease in the University’s
current 3,200 international students.