A National Security Strategy document issued by the White House Monday reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to increasing vetting of foreign nationals coming to the United States and floated the possibility that certain international students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields could be subjected to new restrictions in an attempt to prevent intellectual property theft.
“The United States will review visa procedures to reduce economic theft by nontraditional intelligence collectors,” the strategy document states. “We will consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors, while acknowledging the importance of recruiting the most advanced technical work force to the United States.”
The White House did not provide any further details about what those restrictions might look like, or which countries would be designated for such restrictions. The provision relating to foreign STEM students is included in a part of the strategy document that deals with protection of intellectual property more broadly, and that discusses the threat of intellectual property theft posed by "competitors such as China."
"While the specific details of the White House proposal haven't been revealed, the reference to restricting STEM students of 'certain designated countries' sounds suspiciously like another potentially unjustified and harmful ban," said Jill Welch, deputy executive director for public policy for NAFSA: Association of International Educators. "The U.S. already has important and thorough measures in place to prevent technology transfer, and policies that treat entire nationalities with suspicion should be measured against whether we are deterring potential allies and strategic collaborations."