The US higher education institutions have requested the US government to process visas and give students interview waivers.
The heads of seventeen universities in New York State have written to the United States government to open consulates and embassies for F-1 student visa appointments and processing and allow officers to either waive in-person interview requirements or permit for virtual interviews.
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Extend Exemptions for Overseas students
The university presidents and chancellors have also suggested extending exemptions to travel curbs for overseas students in the letter to US secretary of State Antony Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of Homeland Security.
Presently, the students travelling from Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the European Schengen area are the only ones who are exempt from travel restrictions.
Leaders of institutions including Columbia University, Cornell University, University of Rochester, University at Buffalo, and Stony Brook University penned that the institutions are concerned that many embassies and consulates globally continue to be closed and unable to process international student visas.
The letter highlighted that the US has already waived the interview terms for the Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers H-2 visas.
In China, which represented some 34.6% of international students in the US in the academic year 2019-20, F-1 visa processing services have been closed for over 13 months.
According to Open Doors statistics, the higher education institutions are also experiencing notable lags in India, which sent more than 193,000 students to the US in 2019-20.
Since the Indian and Chinese citizens comprise the largest cohort of international students in the United States, this matter is of eminent concern to the US.
Andrew Hamilton, president of New York University, speaking at a Presidents’ Alliance and NAFSA action alert briefing, informed that the higher education institution faces a very significant threat that students from China will be unable to return to the US.
Many Chinese students may not travel to the US this fall because of visa processing issues, warned, A NAFSA Member Interest Group focusing on China.
The embassies and consulates around the world might be unable to deal with the pent-up demand for visas.
US higher institutions encounter alternating levels of risk and vulnerability.
Rajika Bhandari, a senior advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance, reminded, Institute of education 2020s data revealed a 43% decline in new enrolments, and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS ) report in March found that new enrolments in the US dropped by 72%, plus overseas students in the US dropped by 18% in 2020.
In May 2020, US higher education could lose around $3bn due to the drop in anticipated enrolments, estimated NAFSA.
A study by Shorelight shows that higher education institutions in the US face varying levels of risk and vulnerability.
The institution with high risk could expect a fall in $283m revenue, with 60% of its international cohort from affected and restricted countries.
While the institution with low risk could see an estimated economic impact of about $2m with 12% of students from affected regions, explained Bhandari.
Go local encouraging international students to continue studies at global sites.
New York university’s backup plan, called Go Local, encourages international students stranded abroad to continue NYU studies at one of our global sites.
Shanghai’s site has welcomed nearly 3,000 students, and many students have joined locations in Europe and other parts of the world.
Hamilton stated the students want to return to the US and hope to be on campus, and we wish very much to be welcoming them back in the fall.
The letter also mentioned that the country could pass a welcoming message to prospective international students to restore the United States as a preferred destination and support economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic by taking action now.
US policies need to ensure minimal disruption for students and keep students and communities safe, to retain the country’s position of preeminence in the wake of Covid-19.
The country is continuously seeking ways to serve as many visa applicants worldwide as possible with guidance from public health authorities, stated a spokesperson from the Department of State.
The embassies and consulates work to resume routine visa services on a location-by-location basis as quickly as possible. Yet, the pandemic continues to impact the number of visas country posts can process.
Mandatory health safeguards have temporarily overcome the visa processing capacity at many embassies and consulates, requiring them to prioritize the most urgent and mission-critical cases.