“Add in other community development factors, they’re innovators and creators, if they can’t get in it could be quite a disaster in the long run,” said Elizabeth Goss, a Boston-based immigration attorney who specializes in student recruitment has visa.
Nearly 1.1 million overseas students attended college in the United States in the 2019-2020 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education, an enrollment tracking organization. While education groups say it’s too early to predict what fall enrollment will look like, last fall’s 43 percent drop in new international student enrollment has proponents for those students who are concerned about the coming semester.
A recent analysis by Moody found that the decline in international students over the past year and the bureaucratic burden of Covid are likely to weigh on university finances for “several years”. Enrollment will likely recover for the fall, the rating agency said, but will be slowed down by travel restrictions, persistent acidity from the Trump administration’s immigration policies, and increased competition from other countries.
Biden has Easing of travel bans from the Trump era and allows visa students to study online when campus is closed for Covid-19 outbreaks but it is for advocates of higher education asking him to relax the restrictions for student visas to make your way to the United States easier.
“Whether they skip the interviews or have virtual interviews, we have heard from State that there are security concerns and that their system is set up to process virtual interviews,” said Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations for the American Council on Education.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the world’s largest non-profit organization for international education, also asked Foreign Minister Antony Blinken To prioritize visa processing for students and academics, extend temporary visa waiver eligibility, and use video conferencing for required visa interviews.
To obtain a student visa, prospective students must submit documents and attend a face-to-face interview at an American consulate. The processing of the visa then takes a few months.
“The workload increases dramatically as the staff decreases, even if international students and some visas have priority,” said Jeanne Batalova, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
Joann Ng Hartmann, senior director at NAFSA, said the organization believes there could be a huge backlog in visa processing when consulates are opened, which could mean international students may not arrive on time in the fall .
And Covid-19 disruptions at banks and consulates in hard-hit countries like India could continue to pose significant barriers for prospective students.
Typically, about 40,000 Indian students are newcomers to the US each year, and they are the students who would need a visa from a consulate, said Allan Goodman, president of IIE.
“There is no evidence from online academic trade shows and virtual presentations that there is less excitement about going to American colleges and universities,” said Goodman. “The problem is, can people come here and how much depends on whether they contain the virus, open banks, open consulates, get vaccinations.”
In addition to the logistics of making an appointment, going to a consulate, and standing in line, Batalova said a student’s sick family member can unravel well-thought-out plans. And for those still keen to travel, the visa backlog will likely include members of last year’s cohort who chose to study from home or postpone a year, in addition to the new entrants for the fall.
“There is potential for you to have twice as many people looking for a first-time visa to enter the US, which is a logistical problem,” said Goss, the Boston-based immigration attorney.
There are also people who want to renew a visa because they decided to go home to check on their loved ones during the pandemic. But those who survived Covid-19 in the US are also on the question of how to renew visas if they want to visit their family.
“A lot of students wanted to go back [to India] to get renewals for their F-1 visas, ”said Priyank Lathwal, a PhD student from India who studied at Carnegie Mellon University where 18 Percent of the students come from abroad. “They are unable to do this because the system has a delay in processing visas and embassies in India are closed.”
College students and academics from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the European Union’s Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Ireland have been added to the Foreign Ministry’s list Exceptions of national interest to the travel restrictions of Covid-19, which allow them to get to the US despite travel restrictions.
Students in programs starting on or after August 1st can enter the country – if they can get a visa on time.
Pratiyush Singh of the University of California at Berkeley, where 13 percent of students are from abroad, said he knows people from his high school in India who are unsure about getting their visas in time for the fall because of the Consulates are closed.
“It’s kind of confusing,” he said. “They don’t know whether to postpone their enrollment until spring if they can’t get a visa.”