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TanyaJun 24, 2024 4:40:29 PM3 min read

Trump's Green Card Promise: What It Means for International Students

International Students' Concerns About a Possible Trump Presidency

For a long time, immigrants have not been fond of Donald Trump. The possibility of him becoming president again scares many international students. During his first term, his unfriendly immigration policies made not only Day 1 CPT a risky option but also led to historically low approval rates for regular STEM OPT applications. Both U.S. higher education institutions and international students dread the idea of his potential re-election—until yesterday.

Trump Promises Green Cards to All Graduates of U.S. Institutions

During The All-In Podcast on Thursday, Trump stated: “What I want to do, and what I will do, is ensure that if you graduate from a college, you should automatically receive a green card as part of your diploma, allowing you to stay in this country.” He further clarified that this policy would apply not only to graduates of four-year universities but also to those from junior colleges. “That includes junior colleges too. Anyone who graduates from a college—whether it’s two years or four years, or if you earn a doctorate degree from a college—should be able to stay in this country.”

Is It Too Good To Be True?

The campaign is now emphasizing a strict vetting process as part of the plan after receiving immediate pushback. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The New York Post that it was “a cockamamie proposal.” He said, “If someone earns a PhD at a university in hard science, I personally will drive to their house and give them a green card. The issue is any foreign college graduate, even from a bogus two-year master’s program or gender studies, would get a green card.” Chris Chmielenski, president of the conservative Immigration Accountability Project, told Fox News that the plan “would reduce wages for all Americans, increase job competition, particularly for recent college graduates, and pose a national security threat.”

Trump’s Past Record on International Students and Skilled Foreign Workers

Donald Trump often advocated for “merit-based” immigration, but during his presidency, his administration showed little interest in admitting highly skilled foreign nationals. Analysts viewed his administration's policies as a regulatory war against companies, international students, and H-1B visa holders. H-1B visas are crucial for high-skilled foreign nationals, including international students, to work long-term in the U.S. Due to the lengthy green card process, these individuals typically first obtain an H-1B visa.

After Trump took office in 2017, his policies increased the denial rate for H-1B petitions for initial employment to 24% in FY 2018 and 21% in FY 2019. Requests for Evidence also surged. Following a 2020 legal settlement, denial rates fell to 2%, close to their historical average. Denials for continuing employment rose to 12% in FY 2018 and FY 2019, causing many professionals to leave the country. Post-settlement, these denials also dropped to 2%.

In his final year, Trump blocked the entry of high-skilled temporary visa holders and employment-based immigrants. In June 2020, he used his authority to suspend the entry of H-1B, L-1, and other temporary visa holders, as well as nearly all categories of immigrants, including employment-based ones. This was an unprecedented use of presidential authority.

Possibilities for Trump’s Statement Becoming Law

Given his past behavior and overall political stance, it is unlikely that Donald Trump will pass legislation granting green cards to all foreign graduates of U.S. universities if elected. His longtime immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, and other allies would almost certainly work to prevent such a proposal from becoming law.

What to Do if There’s No Green Card?

The usual steps are to find a company to sponsor you for a green card and H-1B visa. Obtain an H-1B visa while waiting for your green card. If you are not selected for an H-1B or cannot get PERM approved within the H-1B’s six-year limit, or got laid off while on H1B, consider returning to F1 student status and using Day 1 CPT as a legal work authorization to continue your education and maintain your paid job.

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Co-Founder of CPTDog. A former international student turned entrepreneur with 12 years of experience navigating the immigration journey from F1 to Green Card.