Visa Crunch

Visa processing backlogs hinder Chinese students’ education abroad

While the surge of the pandemic has been relentless, there are signs that normalcy has begun to seep on the back of the introduction of vaccination programmes around the globe. However, in the epicentre of the pandemic, Chinese students still face long processing times for their F-1 visa applications. According to a petition raised by a NAFSA Member Interest Group, F-1 visa services in China have been non-operational for close to 13 months, causing a severe backlog of applications waiting to be processed.

This implies that Chinese students wishing to return to US campuses this fall, will not be able to do so, because of the sheer volume of applications currently unprocessed.

Andrew Hang Chen, chief learning officer at WholeRen Group and the vice-chair of the NAFSA China MIG said, “From February of last year Chinese student visa processing has been effectively closed for 13 months.” He added, “Occasionally there are appointments available, but the pattern is that the appointments are always cancelled.”

The State Department has said that in lieu of the pandemic, embassies and consulates in China are still operating with a limited number of staff, and there are still restrictions on travel from China to the USA, therefore the backlog.

A spokesperson added,” “However, Chinese nationals have obtained F-1 visas from embassies and consulates in countries outside of China, after they have demonstrated to a consular officer they have spent the last 14 days outside of a country subject to U.S. travel restrictions.”

“An embassy or consulate will resume adjudicating all routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa cases only when adequate resources are available, and it is safe to do so.”

“We have been resuming routine visa services on a post-by-post basis, following State Department guidance to safely return our workforce and the public to Department facilities.”

Finally shedding some light on the possible resolution of this problem, the spokesperson added,“As post-specific conditions improve, our embassies and consulates will begin providing additional services, prioritising routine services to US citizens and processing immigrant visa applications…posts will resume all routine visa services completely as soon as it is safe to do so for the public and for our workforce.”

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