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Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 1, 2018 - "There are a lot of factors that can affect visa issuance rates, including local economic and safety conditions -- many of the countries on the travel ban list are sites of conflict and/or economic crisis -- and, for students, the availability of scholarships. The numbers can fluctuate from year to year, but it's reasonable to think U.S. visa policy restricting entry for nationals of certain listed countries or subjecting them to increased vetting is one reason behind some of the recent declines.
Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell University, said the percentage changes were “higher than I would have anticipated. For example, a 53 percent decline in the number of F visas issued to people from Iraq, that’s very significant. Even if the numbers are small, the percentage change is very significant, and it shows that the State Department is implementing the travel ban more aggressively than many people may have thought.”
Yale-Loehr added, “The fact that despite the exception that theoretically allows students from Iran to come to the United States we still see a 24 percent decrease in the number of F-1 visas granted from Iran, shows that there is a de facto travel ban in place for many students from Iran even though legally they are allowed to apply to come under the same conditions as before.”
Though the travel ban itself affects relatively few countries, many in higher education are concerned that a perception among prospective international students that the U.S. is unwelcoming or unsafe and uncertainty about visa policies are among the factors that have contributed to a drop in international enrollments at U.S. universities -- the first such drop in many years."