“Foreign students have one of the highest rates of overstaying visas of any category – much higher even than tourist visas. It’s one of the favorite visas for terrorists to try to obtain, because it offers a longer duration of stay,” said Jessica M. Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies.
Worse still is that university admission is not a requirement to set foot in the US. Jihadists could easily obtain a student visa via admission from a school to learn English for example, since the area of study may be changed once they set foot in the US.
A visa to study English in the US, may be switched to study nuclear physics, once the student arrives on US soil.
Foreigners have described how they had just entered Europe and that their next destination would be the US. When asked what their experience was like traveling to Europe, the man responded with a tone of gloating in his voice.
“It was very easy,” he told Majid Rafizadeh, a Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East.. “We came here on a student visa, and we will be in the US on another student visa!”
“Many Islamists have become adept at manipulating the flaws in the immigration system and have found ways of taking advantage of any legal loopholes,” Rafizadeh noted in an essay published by the Gatestone Institute.
“The breach should concern everyone: any prospective jihadists can easily abuse the immigration system by coming to the US on a student visa. All he needs to do is apply to some US universities, receive a letter of admission, then take it to the closest US embassy as a credible document for obtaining an F-1 student visa.
“Those jihadists who desire to hide their origins or find it more difficult to get into the US universities, simply get a student visa from a European country; then, after they are in Europe, it is easier to obtain a student visa to move to the US. Unfortunately, some intelligence and immigration officials believe that since these people have already entered Europe, then they are less of a risk because they have ‘passed’ some security screening.
But Rafizadeh explained that the background screening of these jihadists was mostly inadequate, and even “pathetic”. He said it was “extremely difficult, if not impossible”, to obtain any genuine information on their background.
“A few minutes of an interview in the embassy, a quick review of the applications, and an ineffective check of the names against the normally outdated database of people of concern, are totally insufficient tools to detect whoever wants to come to the US to support Islamist groups, commit terrorism, or harm Americans.”
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) – an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice until 2003 – admitted that there were too many visas granted each year which made it impossible to check the background of every single applicant.
There is also no mechanism to check whether they are attending their schools or not, and no one is really actively monitoring their actions or whereabouts.