Office of the President

June 25, 2020

New visa restrictions are a threat to learning and innovation

Ana Mari Cauce

Across the U.S., universities like ours, as well as many industries, rely on the expertise and skills of workers from other nations. Despite this, several recent presidential executive orders suspend access to certain categories of visas needed to study and work in the United States, including here at the University of Washington. These new restrictions threaten the talented students and scholars seeking to work and learn at the UW, as well as our institution’s ability to produce the research and innovation that advance health and prosperity – all of which are sorely needed during this pandemic and economic crisis.

The executive orders extend and expand restrictions for several frequently utilized categories of student, work and immigration visas through the end of 2020. Some of these restrictions have specifically targeted graduate students from China and all will have a chilling effect on the free expression of ideas, preventing many scholars, researchers, graduate students and other professionals from coming to the U.S. to study and innovate. Suspending the issuance of new visas creates needless stress and uncertainty for some of the world’s most talented people and disrupts vital research that improves our world.

Our nation benefits enormously from research and innovation that involves international colleagues, and students benefit from a learning environment that includes diverse perspectives and fosters cultural exchange. These new restrictions will compromise our ability as a University and as a nation to attract the most talented students, doctors, scientists and thinkers that the world has to offer. As we are seeing in real time, innovative approaches and international collaboration are essential to our health and well-being.

The COVID-19 pandemic has swiftly exposed how interdependent we are when it comes to population health; our survival depends on sharing knowledge and intellectual collaboration across borders. Barring the door to the people most likely to advance our common cause will only delay and derail the global efforts to address the pandemic and the many challenges we face as a planet.

Our University will continue to monitor this situation and any UW faculty, staff or students who are concerned can find resources, information and guidance at the Office of Global Affairs website. We remain committed to our mission as a global university and to supporting all members of our community, wherever they are from. While we cannot control the process by which visas are issued, we will not change our admissions or hiring policies and we will work to support our community members in obtaining the documentation they need in order to teach, learn, discover and heal at the UW.