A group of prominent Senators has urged the Joe Biden Government to accelerate visas for international students. If implemented, this decision will benefit innumerable Indian students anxiously waiting to attend classes from the Fall. For example, just emergency visas are being issued at present in Delhi at the U.S. Embassy. As a result, a sizable number of students remain anxious about their academic prospects for the next session starting from this Fall. The Senator group has stated that there are 100,000+ Indian students in the United States, contributing sizably towards the economy.
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The letter from the group to Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, stated concerns relating to the slow processing of student visas with the country continuing to heal from the coronavirus pandemic. The State Department has been requested to offer consistent and reliable consular solutions while ensuring maximization of alternatives for in-person interviews for visas through virtual interviews and waivers, authorization of overtime for staff members, increasing hiring, extension of visa eligibility based waivers and initiation of better engagement with external agencies and all stakeholders.
The letter highlights the vital juncture in the yearly academic calendar when international aspirants have to make their visa appointments while planning travel to the U.S. Senators also stated that while some consulates are reopening in the U.S., many are still functioning at lower capacities with limited visa appointment access. Potential students cannot remain certain about processing of visas in a timely manner, enabling them to fly to the country for commencing academics.
The Senators have expressed their appreciation on the National Interest Exception for international students, timely visa processing is still a major hurdle. International students visiting the U.S. continue to offer considerable value for the country’s higher education framework and the economy as per the letter. Data garnered from the Association of International Educators indicates how $41 billion was contributed to the national economy by 1 million+ international students at U.S. universities and colleges for 2018-2019 alone.
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At the same time, the Senators have talked about the further and continuing enrichment of educational and academic experiences of U.S. students due to the influx of international peers. This is tough to accomplish with the online format. There are practical hurdles towards online learning for international students who are not in the U.S. These include differences in time zones, reliable internet and electricity access issues and more. Some classes even require students to attend at unearthly hours as per the Senator group. The group has also highlighted how certain countries restrict access to specific data or sites while the U.S. also limits sharing of specific data with other nations.
Countless Indian students may benefit from faster visa processing and eventually be able to attend classes this Fall if a positive decision is implemented by the Biden Administration.