Visa Crunch

Not many interviews are left for J-1 visas at the US embassies

The international student applicants have faced enough turbulences in their visa procedures made by the US embassies which have been called out for cancellations despite the retiring Trump-era “work visa ban” at the end of March.

Students, exchange tourists, and temporary work visas are now being prioritized by US embassies and consulates, according to the State Department, since area lockdowns, transit bans, and host country quarantine laws have stymied regular operations.

“These restrictions, taken together, have limited appointment availability since the pandemic, resulting in a large backlog of both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants seeking a visa interview,” according to the Department. The State Department gave out a statement suggesting that they are trying to reduce the backlog whilst maintaining the safety of their employees and candidates and safeguarding national security.

Following the suspension of all BridgeUSA summer job and travel visa appointments on April 9 in Turkey (which is reportedly under lockdown), stakeholders wrote to the embassy, requesting that the decision be reversed.

“Turkish students are deeply saddened at not being able to realise their dreams of experiencing America,” they wrote.

While others are optimistic that things will improve after the lockdown ends later this month, sponsors continue to use the same tactics as last year to provide solutions to students who are unable to fly. “Sponsors are allowing students to move to the next year’s program without paying any additional fees,” said Deniz Akar, managing director of Global Vizyon. Although this is an opportunity for students in their first, second, and third years of university, about 10% of students Global Vizyon works with are currently in their final year, making them ineligible the next year.

“We are giving different options for them, such as internships in the US, or Canada and Ireland work and study programs”. While he added, the delays have disheartened many students especially in Turkey who were hopeful that better policy changes would prevail soon following the inauguration of the US president Joe Biden.

They demanded that the government take further measures to expedite visa processing in order to secure exchange programs and the US employers who participate in them, recalling that the BridgeUSA exchange group lost $1.23 billion as a result of the pandemic last year.

“The Alliance and the signees are advising the Department of State to take additional measures to process exchange visas, such as waiving interviews for J-1 applicants, focusing resources at embassies with high demand, and relaxing travel restrictions in favour of evidence of a negative Covid test or vaccination,” he said.

Beyond J-1 visas, agents in countries where delays persist are now focusing on what will happen with degree students at the start of the new academic year, particularly as the regulations surrounding in-person research conditions for obtaining visas are still uncertain.

“I still have a little bit of hope [for] after May 17 [the conclusion of the lockdown in Turkey], so you still have six weeks to go for summer work and travel. Maybe at least a couple of thousand students will be accepted. Let’s see,” Akar concludes on a hopeful note.

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