International student Himangini Banwari came to the U.S. with “low expectations” of working here after graduation.
Immigration and visa policies have made it increasingly difficult to do so, according to Paul Tesluk, dean of the School of Management.
Tesluk has now joined 69 other business school deans and CEOs from across the country by co-signing a letter, asking U.S. government leaders to re-examine current visa and immigration policies.
He says they wrote the letter because of “outdated” laws, students’ immigration status concerns, the “difficulty” of getting an H-1B employment visa –– which allows students to have careers in the U.S. after graduation –– and “safety” in response to “anti-immigrant rhetoric” in recent policies.
The letter says these concerns close “the door to the high-skilled immigrants” who the economy “needs to thrive.”
U.S. business schools have seen a 13.7% decline in international applicants in 2019, the largest decline in the world, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Application Trends Survey Report. UB’s business school applications declined by nearly two-thirds in the past three years, according to The Buffalo News. Net migration to the U.S. is down 12% from 2017 to 2018 and wait time for visas has nearly doubled, according to Fortune.
“It’s a function of the immigration policy and the rhetoric from Washington and the Trump administration,” Tesluk said. “Visa processing has slowed down dramatically, denial rates of employment visas have increased significantly. It’s become more and more difficult for high-skilled talent to be able to have employment opportunities in the U.S.”
The Supreme Court passed the Trump administration’s Executive Order 13769 in December 2017, which imposed a travel ban barring immigrants from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela from entering the U.S.
Between 2017 and 2018, immigration from these countries decreased by 72%, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
The H1-B visa is a temporary work visa that allows professionals to work in the U.S., according to SGM law group.Applying for an H1-B visa requires an employer’s sponsorship and the applicant to go through a lottery process. The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services randomly selects applicants.
The letter asks government leaders to “reverse additional steps that have been imposed on international students applying for H-1B visas,” according to Tesluk, which he says have become more “restrictive” and “debilitative.”
It also calls for a Heartland program which would give incentives to organizations that employ international students after graduation. It would also help smaller regions in attracting international talent.
John Wood, interim vice provost for international education, wrote in an email that the letter is a “timely intervention.”
“The letter addressed legitimate concerns about the current posture of the U.S. and how that limits our ability to attract and retain global talent to fill critical needs in our workforce and economy,” Wood wrote in an email.
Wood wrote international students’ applications were increasing until this fall, but some programs have been decreasing prior.
“A more challenging immigration environment has contributed to this, but it is not the only factor,” Wood wrote in an email. “Nationally, we have seen a decline in total new international enrollment each of the past three years, and that is not a good trend.”
Tesluk said less international student enrollment “dramatically decreases diversity in academic programs” while “the world is only becoming increasingly more diverse.” He said many companies are having trouble finding the right applicants, which will only get more difficult, since companies are trying to find high-tech business-related skills that a lot of immigrants have.
Claudia Cabrera, a sophomore economics major, came to UB from Peru and visited the U.S. when she was seven years old, which is when she decided she wanted to make it her college destination. In Peru, college is “just a building” where students go to study and go back home, she said, but she fell in love with campus life in the U.S.
Still, she said applying for a visa was “really scary,” because she’s seen so many people get denied after being accepted to a university in the U.S. and having all the right documents.
“I decided to take the risk, because I like how college works here,” Cabrera said.
She now works as an international admissions ambassador, where she said she sees a lot of students get accepted and then aren’t able to come because they get denied a visa. Cabrera said when she applied for a visa, the Peru embassy wanted to “make sure” she was going to be returning to her home country after her education.
“I think that’s why people interview students, they want to really make sure the only reason they’re coming [to the U.S.] is for study,” Cabrera said. “And after that, you’re set and then you’re going back home.”
But many students stay in the U.S. for work after graduation. From 2004-2016, 1.5 million graduates of U.S. colleges and universities were approved to stay and more than half of these students were from STEM fields, according to Pew Research Center.
Banwari, a senior business administration and psychology major, plans to stay in the U.S. after graduation. She said getting a student visa isn’t difficult, but has “low expectations” for obtaining an H-1B visa, which would allow her to work in the U.S.
“It has become more difficult for me to find a job as the H-1B visa has become more difficult to obtain,” Banwari said. “I am [facing] and will face challenges working here, as an immigrant it’s disappointing to hear about these policies.”
Neeraj Thirumoorti, a senior business administration and international trade student, said he isn’t planning to stay in the U.S. after graduation, but knows the process of getting an H-1B visa is “very hard” since it’s completely random.
“I haven’t witnessed any anti-immigration here, but I have seen videos of people asking immigrant families to go back to their country in not a nice way,” Thirumoorti said. “It makes me sad to see or hear things like this, especially from the U.S. who has to be an example for others. Nothing is wrong with putting Americans’ jobs first, but it’s the way it’s been put across.”
Tesluk said it’s difficult to make progress in the current “polarized” and “divided” environment but hopes the letter will bring attention to the “importance of skilled immigration.”
“If we care about economic development, if we want to be able to see companies successfully innovate, if we care about supporting new businesses then we should all be supporting making adjustments to our high-skilled immigration policy,” Tesluk said.
Brittany Gorny is the senior news editor and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @BrittanyGorny.