OPINION: Rise in student visa denials takes American dream away from international students

Vedant Kulkarni, junior in management information systems, is an international student from India. (John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

International students’ enrollment and population at Kansas State University and across America have gone down for the fourth consecutive year.

According to statistics from the International Students and Scholars Services at K-State, international student population has declined from 2,247 in fall 2014 to 1,537 in spring 2019. An increase in immigration crackdowns and stricter policies have resulted in fewer students being issued student visas to come and study in America.

In a nationwide phenomenon, enrollment of international students at American universities have seen a sharp decline of around 6.6 percent per year since the 2016-2017 school year. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of international full-time student visas issued dropped nearly 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. This trend has continued over the years to an all-time high student visa denial rate.

In an article by CNBC, attorney Shah Peerally of Shah Peerally Law Group in San Francisco states that the student visa process under the administration is “a nightmare.” Peerally also noted that while there has been a decline in foreign enrollments in America, Canada has seen an increase.

“Canada has an express entry. Within a few weeks they get not only their work permits, but also their residency,” Peerally said.

CNBC also reported that a policy memorandum introduced in July to August of 2018 gave the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services “full discretion to deny [visa] applications, petitions or requests” without seeking additional information. This memorandum struck down 2013 legislation requiring USCIS to reach out to for clarification before denying applications.

Essentially, it means that even minor visa violations, even those that may have resulted from officials’ mistakes in filling out forms, can result in loss of immigration status. The crucial detail to remember is that USCIS is no longer required to inform people if they have committed a minor violation. However, the new policy gives them total authority to deport international students.

The New York Times reports that the punishment for overstaying your student visa would result in deportation and up to a 10-year ban from the United States.

“A lot of this impacts things that happen when students are in crisis when [visa] status is the last thing on their minds,” said Katie Tudini, director for international students services at University of Buffalo, while speaking with the New York Times.

International students “are considered the most brilliant minds in their field, and they are not coming here to infringe the law and intentionally overstay in the country,” Karen F. Da Silva, international student advocate for the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, told the New York Times.

I agree with Da Silva. I am an international student. When I chose to come to America, I ensured that once I was here, I would never break even the smallest law. I am always careful about my behavior in the country, and so far, I have not broken any American laws. However, I am a double-major student and if my studies take longer to complete than what I expected, I face the risk of being deported. I face the risk of being thrown out of here just because I chose to study more.

At K-State, we have 1,500 international students from numerous different countries and all continents except Antarctica. All of us bring a distinct global perspective to our classes and to campus with the hope that our voices will be heard. The current rate at which international students are being denied student visas to America could be seen as a potential attack on a campus diversity and inclusion philosophies. We pay tuition as high as $18,000 per semester, yet we are the ones that now face the risk of persecution and deportation by the immigration system for technical errors.

International students studying at American universities have contributed over $39 billion and supported over 455,000 jobs to the economy. International students in Kansas have provided over $61.8 million to the Kansas economy and supported around 800 jobs. These contributions are at risk due to student visa denials and a decrease in international student enrollment at K-State and across America.

We, the international students, need help from our friends, colleagues, professors and administrators to be our voice across the state and the nation. I want to call upon the K-State Young Democrats and the K-State College Republicans to represent our voices to your representatives, senators and other leaders across the state and the nation.

Our population at campuses across America is decreasing rapidly and we need help, and we need it right away. I appeal to university president Richard Myers to use his influence at the national level to bring the attention of American leaders to this cause. I urge the Student Governing Association to use their influence for this cause.

International students work for the betterment of America and for the opportunity to live a happy life here. We pay hefty tuition fees, get involved on campus and demonstrate our skills across multiple platforms on campus. In return, we only ask for a fair chance at living the American dream. The American dream still stays alive among students. Please help us save it and receive the opportunity to live it.

Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is a junior in management information systems and journalism and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.