Visa Crunch

US universities call for expedited visa processing and interview waivers for international students

Leaders from 17 New York State higher education institutions have written to the US government urging it to open consulates for F-1 student visa appointments and processing, and to allow officers to waive in-person interview conditions or allow for online interviews.

Currently, only students from the European Schengen region, the United Kingdom, and Ireland are excluded from travel restrictions to the United States, they said.

Many leaders added, “We are concerned that many embassies and consulates around the world remain closed and therefore unable to process international student visas.” They also said, “Given the average length of processing times, this is a matter of some urgency for international students who need to begin making plans to travel to the United States safely by the start of the next academic year.”

According to Open Doors figures, institutions in India are also facing “significant delays.” India sent over 193,000 students to the US in 2019/20. The letter also said, “Given the fact that Chinese and Indian nationals comprise the largest cohort of international students in the United States, this issue is of paramount concern to us.” Moreover, a NAFSA Member Interest Group focused on China previously warned that due to visa processing problems, thousands of Chinese students would be unable to travel to the United States this fall.

President of New York University, Andrew Hamilton, highlighting the urgency of the issue, also said, “We worry greatly that the embassies and consulates around the world will be unable to deal with the pent up demand for visas.” He added, “We are very worried that many of our international students, and especially Chinese students, simply will not be able to get to the US in time for the September classes. This matters to us, we have nearly 20,000 international students in New York. And so resolving these issues is critical to us.”

According to IIE data from 2020, new enrolments fell by 43%, and a SEVIS study from March found that new enrolments in the US fell by 72%, and the total number of foreign students in the US fell by 18% in 2020, according to Rajika Bhandari, senior advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance. Other rival nations, such as the United Kingdom, allow foreign students to enter if they meet certain testing and quarantine conditions.

The letter also added, “By taking action now, you can deliver a welcoming message to current and prospective international students, restore the United States as a destination of choice, and support an important source of economic activity as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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