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Best and Brightest? The Impact of Student Visa Restrictiveness on Who Attends College in the US

Recent immigration policies have created massive uncertainty for international students to obtain F-1 visas. Yet, before the COVID-19 pandemic, student visa applicants already faced an approximately 27 percent refusal rate that varies by time and region. Using data on the universe of SAT takers between 2004 and 2015 matched with college enrollment records, we examine how the anticipated F-1 visa restrictiveness influences US undergraduate enrollment outcomes of international students. Using an instrumental variables approach, we find that a higher anticipated F-1 student visa refusal rate decreases the number of international SAT takers, decreases the probability of sending SAT scores to US colleges, and decreases international student enrollment in the US. The decreases are larger among international students with higher measured academic achievement. We also document academic achievement of international students and show that over 40 percent of high-scoring international SAT takers do not pursue US college education.

Keywords
International Students; Visa Policy; College Choice
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
10.26300/ddes-jm98

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Chen, Mingyu, Jessica Howell, and Jonathan Smith. (). Best and Brightest? The Impact of Student Visa Restrictiveness on Who Attends College in the US. (EdWorkingPaper: -225). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/ddes-jm98

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