Universities and colleges across the United States are experiencing another admissions cycle with uncertainty this Fall with travel restrictions faced by prospective international students due to Covid-19. Many US embassies across the globe have not yet resumed visa processing.
The US embassies and consulates situated in China which has the largest source of international students are only conducting emergency visa appointments. This is an imminent crisis according to international educators that will lead to a decline in as many Chinese students who have not been able to have their visa appointments scheduled.
Due to the global pandemic, travel bans are still in place in the key sending countries such as China and Brazil which means that until the situation starts getting better, students from these countries will be required to travel to a third country and spend at least 14 days there and then travel back to the US.
Around 40 other higher education organizations along with the American Council of Education have come together to appeal to the US Departments of State and Homeland Security to process student visas and authorization of work applications on priority.
The letters that the associations wrote stated that if the consulates fail to reopen this Spring for timely processing, then the US consular officers must work on removing the requirement of in-person interviews. The State should at least try and conduct online visa interviews if this waiver is not possible.
The department was also urged to issue new guidance that would let international students enrol in online courses at higher educational institutions in the US. The new international students are not allowed to travel to the US if their courses are totally online according to the current guidelines.
The US should also make arrangements to welcome international students again and revive the sector and according to a recent report by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the number of new international students in the US dropped from 2019 to 2020 by 72%. The number of international students in the US fell by 17.9% on the whole.
US Embassies and consulates are looking for ways to resume routine visa services based on locations following the local guidelines as well as public health data. However, all the services across the world will be reopened only after it is entirely safe to do so.