As soon as Trump’s win became clear, some international students on the University of Georgia campus heard his campaign promise to eliminate H1B visa as a threat to the careers they hoped to launch in the U.S. after graduation.
During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to protect U.S. workers from foreign competition by cutting back or even eliminating some visas and work permits. He said, “before any new green cards are issued to foreign workers abroad, there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers.”
UGA sent a message on campus to all international students, saying, “a repeal of the laws regarding visas would require legislation to be passed by the U.S. Congress” and “it is highly unlikely any such legislation would be proposed and passed in a short time frame”.
The goal was reassuring students and international scholars that no radical changes in visa regulations or laws will happen anytime soon, said Robin Catmur, the director of the Immigration Services Office.
The university’s message comforted some people more than others.
“Trump is going to reduce the number of H1B visas and he will put the American workers first over the interest of foreign workers,” said Anshool Deshmukh, an Indian student majoring in journalism. “I think it will be more difficult for international students to find a job here in America.”
Deshmukh thinks this will be especially true for people like him, who are not majoring in a science, technology, engineering or math discipline.
Shenxishuai Zhang, 23, a Chinese student majoring in world language education, is considerably less worried because she plans to teach Chinese language skills to Americans.
“I think his radical comments were more about illegal immigrants. Since I’m going to find a job in an education organization, which is one of the categories that is H1B cap-exempt, I don’t think his policies would influence my future career, ” said Zhang.
She also agrees with Trump’s intention to expel the illegal immigrants. “It’s more fair to the other people who are trying to get visas via legal ways,” Zhang said.
UGA administrators were right to send a reassuring message to international students following the election, says An Chen, 27, who is working toward a PhD in computer science. He doesn’t see any reason to panic.
“I think what Trump said during the debate was more of a campaign strategy. He was trying to attract people’s attention and get people’s support,” said Chen. “whether his policies can be implemented is still a question.”
Chen has gotten an H1B visa in the past, and he doesn’t think it will be more difficult in the future.
Some international students have no personal stake in the U.S. presidential election, much less in Trump’s immigration policies.
Jeong-Ha Yim, a Korean student earning her PhD in human resources and organizational development, is one of them.
“I have made a plan to go back to Korea, so I don’t really care about the immigration policies,” she said. After reflecting for a moment, she added a postscript: “But I hope the U.S. government can provide more H1B visas since I know lots of international students want to stay here.”