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US Mulling Whether Foreign Students Should Reapply Yearly

FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2011, photo, University of California Berkeley students walk through Sather Gate on the campus in Berkeley, California.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is considering a proposal that would require the country's more than 1.4 million international students to reapply for permission to stay in the United States every year.

The proposal is part of a plan to enhance national security by more closely monitoring the students, according to the Washington Post.

The Post quotes two unnamed officials saying the plan would require regulatory changes that could take a minimum of 18 months. The plan would require the cooperation of the State Department. While State issues visas, DHS administers them and controls who enters the country.

DHS feels visas too open-ended

The Post says DHS officials have raised concerns that student visas are too open-ended. The agency recently reported that 2.8 percent of student and exchange visa holders overstayed their visas last year, more than double the national average for visitors.

DHS spokesman David Lapan is quoted as saying, "DHS is exploring a variety of measures that would ensure that our immigration programs, including programs for international students studying in the United States, operate in a manner that promotes the national interest, enhances national security and public safety, and ensures the integrity of our immigration system."

'Grave consequences'

The Deputy Executive Director of the Association of International Educators, Jill Welch, says the draft proposal, "Would have grave consequences for our national security, foreign policy and economic interests, as well as America's scientific and innovative strength."

Welch says international students "benefit our communities and our campuses and remain the only actively monitored foreign population in the United States."

More than one million international students study each year in the United States, contributing billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. About 77 percent of those students come from Asia, with China and India sending the largest numbers.