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Brandeis president among signatories to letter raising awareness on visa processing delays

Brandeis University President Ron Liebowitz was among 43 presidents of colleges and universities who signed a letter addressed to the Massachusetts Congressional delegation that raised awareness for recent delays in visa processing for foreign-born students, along with more delays in programs connecting these students to employers in the U.S. 

According to the letter, delays in visa processing have increased 46 percent over the previous fiscal year and many have been set aside for further review by the State Department, leaving students with limited updates on their status as they are forced to miss portions of the semester. 

An increased amount of Requests for Evidence, where the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asks a person to provide evidence for why they are pursuing a visa, have also placed potential foreign-born employees on hold in the process of issuing visas, denying them jobs and travel, according to the letter.

Even students with valid visas can have their visas revoked at Boston Logan International Airport when traveling back to campus from overseas countries, according to a WBUR article on Aug. 27. There are several cases of international students being denied entry upon arrival to the airport.

In one case a student attempted to return to the U.S. at Logan International Airport to attend classes at Harvard University and was refused, WBUR reported. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman reportedly claimed in a statement to The Harvard Crimson that “Applicants must demonstrate they are admissible into the U.S. by overcoming ALL grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds. This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection.”

The presidents in their joint letter emphasized more than 68,000 international students were enrolled in Massachusetts higher education in 2018 and contributed more than $3 billion to state economy. 

“We depend on our ability to attract talented students and scholars from around the world, but the [immigration] policies are too often giving international students a reason to take their talents and contributions elsewhere,” the letter read.

The concern over decreased international student applications was supported by a report released by the Council of Graduate Schools earlier this year, which shows applications from international graduate students are dropping with a 4 percent decrease between the 2017 and 2018 admission cycles. WGBH noted on July 30 that higher education is one of the few top industries left in the U.S. and these continued visa slowdowns could undermine that ranking.

“An environment that thwarts the opportunities for and contributions of these individuals is detrimental to the state’s economy, undermines the educational experiences of all Massachusetts college students, and stifles future innovation and business growth,” the presidents continued in their letter, as cited in a WBUR article on Sept. 18. 

Alongside President Liebowitz, signatories include leadership from Boston University, Clark University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Simmons University, Suffolk University, Tufts University, Amherst College, Babson College, Boston College, Emerson College, Mount Holyoke College, Regis College, Smith College, Wellesley College and Williams College.

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