Even if they obtain visas, students can still be stopped and questioned at the border if Customs and Border Protection officers have doubts about whether the purpose of their travel is indeed study.
Still, students with visas who are re-entering the country to return to school should not encounter problems, said Kevin R. Johnson, dean of the School of Law at the University of California, Davis.
There are indications that in Iran’s case, at least, many students who have accepted offers in the United States are looking elsewhere.
“The problem is that with the students knowing that they will never be allowed to work in the U.S., most of them will essentially choose not to come here in the first place,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, which strongly opposed the travel ban. “So the loophole for students is essentially nonexisting.”
Jamal Abdi, the council’s vice president, said it was seeing a big drop in Iranian students at American medical residencies and graduate programs. At Stanford University, for example, Mr. Abdi said Iranians typically accounted for more than 10 percent of engineering Ph.D. candidates, but this year Stanford has “zero Iranian students coming in.”
What legal remedies remain for people blocked by the travel ban?
Immigrant-rights lawyers are trying to pressure the government to explain how it decides who gets waivers. In a lawsuit filed on Thursday, two advocacy groups, the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and Muslim Advocates in Washington, demanded that government agencies responsible for the waivers provide detailed information on how they are granted.
The lawsuit said many people had been denied waivers without knowing what information they needed to apply, suggesting the process is “cursory, nonexistent, not left to consular discretion, or so limiting that it can be considered nonexistent.”
“Thousands or millions of peoples lives now depend on this waiver process. It’s become their only hope,” said Diala Shamas, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “It’s quite possible there isn’t a waiver process along the lines of what’s been described to us.”