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President Trump’s immigration ban - should international students be worried?

A new era has emerged in American and world geopolitics with the election of President Donald J. Trump. Many questions have arisen regarding his attitude towards foreign nationals and his US-centric approach in general. From what can be deduced from his actions since he took office, he is serious, and one of the groups that may be affected by this approach is international students, specifically from Muslim countries.

In one of his first actions as president, Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. In his order, Trump specifically mentions international students. You can hear what he said about it here:

It is important to see the source and not just rely on what was said in the media. Here is the full text of the executive order:

The banned countries included in the order are:
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Sudan
  • Libya
  • Yemen
  • Somalia

How many international students actually come from these countries?
It may be surprising to find that from the list of banned countries, Iran is the one who sends the most students to the US - 12,269 students last year, with the rest of the countries sending less than half that number. When you think about the magnitude of the problem, the students affected by the situation are less than 2% of the total number of international students in the US. However, for the students who are affected, this is potentially a very serious issue, and it is hard to tell if it will affect many more over the course of Trumps presidency.

How have universities reacted?

The government has asked universities to supply lists of students from these countries. It appears that most universities are complying, with the University of Michigan standing out as not agreeing. There has for a long time, been a requirement that US universities report the number of international students on their campuses, via the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS). It is not clear if a new requirement came out now, and how much of it is political and media noise.

It is hard to assess what will stick after the noise dies down. The leaders of several major universities have issued statements and directives that they will support students without regard to their immigration status and that they will not partner with law enforcement agencies to proactively enforce the new federal immigration regulations. Universities are working hard to understand exactly who of their students and faculty are affected by the new order.

By Magister danko (Own work),
via Wikimedia Commons

I am an international student currently in the US - what should I do?
  • Do not travel outside the US while the executive order is in effect. You may not be able to come back! Don’t risk it.
  • Be in touch with the international office at your university to understand how they can support you through this period.
  • Carefully read the executive order and its implications on you.
  • Continue to follow, as additional countries may be added to the list while others may be removed pending the review process that will end in 90-120 days.

I applied to be an international student in the US next year – what should I do?
  • If your country is not on the list, you will most likely be able to pursue your studies as planned.
  • If your country is on the list, seriously consider applying to schools in other international destinations that will accept you: Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France and others.
  • If you are a dual citizen - US and one of the countries on the list, you will most likely be accepted. Though you may be detained and questioned upon your next entry to the US. Make sure to have legal backup just in case things get complicated. 

Is the party over?

International students contribute over $30 billion to the US economy each year, and are the economic force driving the survival of many major universities, especially given the US student financial aid bubble that may soon burst. Therefore, it is not likely that this executive order will change the upward trend in internationalization of education or significantly reduce the number of students who come to the US every year. We may see a more moderate growth curve this year and next, as the fear ensues, but the US will likely remain the number one destination for international students worldwide for the foreseeable future.

Still not sure what university is your best fit? Visit or download the GradTrain apps to try our university matching predictor! 

This post was written by Jacob Bacon, GradTrain’s Co-Founder and CEO and reflects his analysis of the current situation. Current or prospective international students should not rely solely on this analysis and should seek legal counsel for their individual case. If you want to receive further support from GradTrain regarding this issue, please visit our website at: https:///