ACE and 12 other higher education associations submitted comments this week to the U.S. Department of State in response to a proposal to require all U.S. nonimmigrant visa applicants to submit their social media usernames and previous email addresses, phone numbers, and international travel.
The Notice of Proposed Information Collection issued March 30 would significantly expand the Trump administration's enhanced vetting of potential immigrants and visitors, a particular concern for higher education.
The proposed new requirements would affect an estimated 14.7 million people who apply for visas to enter the United States each year for business or pleasure, including citizens from countries such as Brazil, China, India, and Mexico. Previously, social media, email, and phone number histories were only sought from applicants identified for extra scrutiny.
ACE and the other groups are concerned that the new application requirements could result in significant unintended consequences that will hamper the United States’ ability to attract the world’s best students and scholars to American campuses.
“We understand the need and wholeheartedly support efforts to ensure the safety of the American people,” they wrote. “However, we must also remain a welcoming country to international students, scholars, scientists, and researchers who enrich our campuses and the country with their talents and skills. The roughly one million international students that attend U.S. colleges and universities add to this country’s intellectual and cultural vibrancy, and they also yield an estimated economic impact of $37 billion and support 450,000 U.S. jobs, according to recent estimates.”
The associations also addressed the privacy concerns associated with the required disclosure of social media identifiers and username information, and expressed concerns that the severely understaffed State Department was already stretched in terms of visa processing.
The public comment period ends May 29.