Is early decision important for international students?
Here's my stab at a thorough answer, one informed by multiple perspectives...
The biggest controversy surrounding Early Decision deadlines lies in the fact that ED applicants usually need to be fully aware of their ability to independently fund their college education. Most Early Decision deadlines fall well before the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) filing date, so students cannot rely on the receipt of need-based financial. By signing an Early Decision Agreement, you ARE committed.
However, because many institutions offer very different financial aid packages (or, occasionally, no financial aid) to interntational students, certain international students can benefit from the ED deadline (either because they know they aren't looking for financial aid, or because the FAFSA is not used in the process).
Furthermore, many institutions do consider an ED applicant to be showing GREAT interest. Especially if an interntional student has not had the chance to visit campus, applying ED can be a surefire way to show interest in a school. Although it's not a good policy, an admissions officer might doubt an international student's intent to matriculate if he/she does not show this interest.
Hope this helps!