ISM Policy Pervasion

Visas, Study Permits, and the International Student Experience


  • Max Crumley-Effinger Emerson College



International students, international student mobility and migration, immigration policy, international student experience, visas, study permits


With more and more literature on international student mobility and migration (ISM), one area of focus has often been overlooked: the impacts of student visas and study permits. Examined through an institutionalist framework highlighting the influences of institutions on individuals and their agency, this study describes how visa and study permit policies pervade international students’ lives in a variety of ways. Interview data collected from 40 international students who study in Australia, Canada, and the United States were analyzed to uncover themes from these host countries. Drawing on these interviews to outline the concept of ISM policy pervasion, the findings of this study show that visa policies affect international students in wide ranging ways. In addition to providing empirical evidence for ISM policy pervasion, this article also lays the groundwork for further studies that delve into the practical impacts of student visa and study permit policies around the world.

Author Biography

Max Crumley-Effinger, Emerson College

MAX CRUMLEY-EFFINGER, PhD, is the Assistant Director of International Student Affairs at Emerson College. With research interests including immigration policy, international higher education, and sustainability, Max’s scholarly work centers international student mobility and migration topics, especially as it relates to policy and the student experience, as well as sustainability in international education. He is a peer reviewer for multiple international education journals, on the leadership team for the CIES Study Abroad and International Students SIG, and is a member of NAFSA, CIES, and a Working Group of the European Network on International Student Mobility (ENIS). Email:


Allen, R., & Bista, K. (2021). Talented, yet seen with suspicion: Surveillance of international students and scholars in the United States. Journal of International Students, 12(1), 175–194. DOI:

Arenas, A. (2021). Human capital portability and international student migration. Journal of Economic Geography, 21(2), 195-229. DOI:

Arkoudis, S., Dollinger, M., Baik, C., & Patience, A. (2019). International students’ experience in Australian higher education: can we do better?. Higher Education, 77(5), 799-813. DOI:

Banks, M., & Bhandari, R. (2012). Global student mobility. In D. Deardorff, H. de Wit, J. Heyl, & T. Adams. (Eds.). The Sage handbook of international higher education, (379-397). Retrieved from DOI:

Brunner, L. R. (2022a). Towards a more just Canadian education-migration system: International student mobility in crisis. Studies in Social Justice, 16(1), 78-102. DOI:

Brunner, L. R. (2022b). ‘Edugration’ as a wicked problem: Higher education and three-step immigration. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 13(5S), 25-37. DOI:

Brunner, L. R. (2022c). Higher education institutions as eyes of the state: Canada’s international student compliance regime. Globalisation, Societies and Education. DOI:

Buckner, E., Denenberg, J., Gelashvili, M., Kontelli, M., Rodriguez, A.M., Wang, L., & Zhang, Y .(2022). The internationalization of higher education in the wake of COVID-19: A rigorous review of the literature on short-term impacts. CIHE Perspectives, 20.

Byrne, C. (2016). Australia's New Colombo Plan: Enhancing regional soft power through student mobility. International Journal, 7(1), 107-128. DOI:

Clibborn, S. (2021). Multiple frames of reference: Why international student workers in Australia tolerate underpayment. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 42(2), 336-354. DOI:

Crumley-Effinger, M., Jules, T., & Shah, S. (2021) Comparative and international education research: Considering sustainable research methodologies. In A. Wiseman (Ed.), Annual Review of Comparative and International Education 2020 (pp. 101-125). Emerald Publishing. DOI:

Crumley-Effinger, M. (2021). International students: At the intersection of local policy and global emergency. In K. Bista, R. M. Allen, & R. Y. Chan (Eds.), Impacts of COVID-19 on international students and the future of student mobility (pp. 147-161). Routledge. DOI:

Crumley-Effinger, M. (2022). SEVIS, surveillance, and international students: New avenues for international education surveillance studies. In A. Wiseman (Ed.), Annual Review of Comparative and International Education 2021 (pp. 141-161). Emerald Publishing. DOI:

Crumley-Effinger, M. (forthcoming). ‘That can come back to haunt you’: Student visas and study permits as impediments to political activism. In C. Rose-Redwood & R. Rose-Redwood (Eds.). International Student Activism and the Politics of Higher Education. Rowman & Littlefield.

Elfeel, S., & Bailey, L. E. (2020). Sojourners navigating structural constraints: international student spouses learning English in an informal centre. Gender and Education, 32(8), 1034-1052. DOI:

Gargano, T. (2009). (Re)conceptualising international student mobility: The potential of transnational social fields. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(3), 331-346 DOI:

Glass, C. R., Godwin, K. A., & Helms, R. M. (2021). Toward greater inclusion and success: A new compact for international students. Washington DC: ACE, 52-57.

Grimm, A. (2019). Studying to stay: Understanding graduate visa policy content and context in the United States and Australia. International Migration, 57(5), 235-251. DOI:

Grimm, A., & Day, B. (2022). Navigating student visas in the United States: Policy, practice, and implications. In International Student Support and Engagement in Higher Education (pp. 161-174). Routledge. DOI:

Hammar, T. (1985). European immigration policy: A comparative study. Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Higham, J., & Font, X. (2020). Decarbonising academia: confronting our climate hypocrisy. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 28(1), 1-9. DOI:

Lynch, J., Gesing, P., & Cruz, N. (2023). International student trauma during COVID-19: Relationships among mental health, visa status, and institutional support. Journal of American College Health, 1-8. DOI:

Mason, L. (2021). International Student Mobility Flows and COVID-19 Realities. Accessed 29 October 2022 from

Khanal, J., & Gaulee, U. (2019). Challenges of international students from pre-departure to post-study: A literature review. Journal of International Students, 9(2), 560-581. DOI:

Kouba, K. (2019). Balancing Study Abroad Student Inflows and Outflows: An Institutionalist Perspective. Journal of Studies in International Education, 1028315319842342. DOI:

Le Quéré, C., Capstick, S., Corner, A., Cutting, D., Johnson, M., Minns, A., ... & Wood, R. (2015). Towards a culture of low-carbon research for the 21 st Century. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Working Paper, 161.

Lipura, S. J., & Collins, F. L. (2020). Towards an integrative understanding of contemporary educational mobilities: a critical agenda for international student mobilities research. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 1-17. DOI:

Lomer, S. (2018). UK policy discourses and international student mobility: the deterrence and subjectification of international students. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 16(3), 308-324. DOI:

Martin, P. Y. (2004). Gender as social institution. Social forces, 82(4), 1249-1273. DOI:

Martirosyan, N. M., Bustamante, R. M., & Saxon, D. P. (2019). Academic and social support services for international students: Current practices. Journal of international Students, 9(1), 172-191. DOI:

McIntosh, M., & Morse, J. (2015). Situating and constructing diversity in semi-structured interviews. Global Qualitative Nursing Research, 1-12. DOI:

Merriam, S., Johnson, J., Lee, M., Kee, Y., Ntseane, G., & Muhamad, M. (2001). Power and positionality: Negotiating insider/outsider status within and across cultures. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 20(5), 405-416. DOI:

Meyer, J. (2006). Foreword. In D. Baker & A. Wiseman (Eds.), The impact of comparative education research on institutional theory (1st ed., International perspectives on education and society; v. 7, pp. xi-xvi). San Diego, CA: JAI Press.

Qu, S., & Dumay, J. (2011). The qualitative research interview. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, 8(3), 238-264. DOI:

Robertson, S. (2011). Student switchers and the regulation of residency: the interface of the individual and Australia's immigration regime. Population, Space and Place, 17(1), 103-115. DOI:

Robertson, S. (2013). Transnational student-migrants and the state: The education-migration nexus. Springer. DOI:

Rose-Redwood, C., & Rose-Redwood, R. (2017). Rethinking the politics of the international student experience in the age of Trump. Journal of International Students, 7(3), I-IX. DOI:

Rumbley, L., Altbach, P., & Reisberg, L. (2012). Internationalization within the higher education context. In D. Deardorff, H. de Wit, J. Heyl, & T. Adams. (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of International Higher Education, (3-26). Retrieved from DOI:

Salmons, J. (2015). Qualitative online interviews: Strategies, design, and skills. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. DOI:

Shields, R. (2013). Globalization and international student mobility: A network analysis. Comparative Education Review, 57(4), 609-636. DOI:

St. Louis, K., & Calabrese Barton, A. (2002). Tales from the Science Education Crypt: A Critical Reflection of Positionality, Subjectivity, and Reflexivity in Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(3), Art. 19,

Tran, L. T., Rahimi, M., Tan, G., Dang, X. T., & Le, N. (2020). Post-study work for international graduates in Australia: opportunity to enhance employability, get a return on investment or secure migration?. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 1-16. DOI:

Tran, L. T. (2020). Teaching and engaging international students: People-to-people connections and people-to-people empathy. Journal of International Students, 10(3), XII-XVII. DOI:

Wiseman, A. W., & Baker, D. P. (2006). The symbiotic relationship between empirical comparative research on education and neo-institutional theory. In The impact of comparative education research on institutional theory (pp. 1-26). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. DOI:

Wiseman, A., Astiz, M., & Baker, D. (2014). Comparative education research framed by neo-institutional theory: A review of diverse approaches and conflicting assumptions. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 44(5), 688-709. DOI:

Xiang, B., & Lindquist, J. (2014). Migration infrastructure. International Migration Review, 48(1_suppl), 122-148. DOI:



How to Cite

Crumley-Effinger, M. (2023). ISM Policy Pervasion: Visas, Study Permits, and the International Student Experience. Journal of International Students, 14(1).