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International Student Flows to the U.S. Before and After 9/11


International student migration to the U.S. dropped after the 9/11 attacks when it became the focus of anti-terrorism and immigration reform because it was believed the hijackers were non-U.S. nationals who had entered the U.S. on student visas. This study examines the impact of 9/11 on international student migration to determine if there was a significant change in visa issuances in post-9/11 years. I also investigate regional variation and Muslim religion predominance to test if visa issuances may have dropped for students originating from Middle Eastern countries and/or Muslim majority countries. I analyzed nonimmigrant visa issuance data from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs annual Report of the Visa Office from 1989 to 2014. Results from paired sample t-tests show that while there was no initial significant difference between the pre- and post-9/11 periods, when broken down by visa classification and by region, there were pronounced negative changes; F and M visas dropped in five out of six regions, and the Middle East was the hardest impacted, experiencing an overall decline in the average number of issued F, J, and M student visas. Negative binomial regression results confirmed results of the paired sample t-tests. The findings suggest that although Muslim majority countries were issued fewer visas for overall total visa issuance, trends by student visa type by region may have been the impetus behind the shifts in student migration after the September 11th, 2001 attacks.

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