China remains the top overall source of international students to America, but Indians have got almost twice the number of student visas as the Chinese in the first seven months of this year, shows an analysis of non-immigrant visas issued by the US State Department up to July.
The Indian Express scrutinised the monthly visa reports (available on the official website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) and found that 77,799 Indian students have got F-1 visas between January and July as opposed to 46,145 Chinese students. The majority of US student visas, in a calendar year, are usually issued in May, June and July.
The F-1 category is a non-immigrant visa for those who wish to study at a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, language training program or other academic institutions in the US. M-1 is another category of student visa meant for foreign nationals who wish to study at vocational or other recognised non-academic institutions, other than language training programmes, in the US. For this analysis, The Indian Express only considered F-1 data as visas issued under this bracket make up over 90 per cent of US student visa issuances every year.
Although the absolute number of Chinese students heading to America for higher education has been on the decline since the pandemic hit, China still accounts for the largest share of international students presently studying in the US. Indian students come in at second position and students from South Korea third.
In 2021, 99,431 Chinese students were given F-1 visas compared to 87,258 Indians and 16,865 South Koreans. In 2020, 21,908 Indian students were given F-1 visas compared to 4,853 Chinese students. US Embassy officials, last year, had described the trends in the 2020 dataset as a “Covid blip”. Lockdowns had then hindered international travel while China had imposed severe movement restrictions on its citizens.
International students make a significant contribution to the US economy as most pay much higher tuition rates than American citizens. In 2019, before the pandemic broke out, international students contributed $44 billion to the US economy. Of this, roughly $16 billion came from Chinese students and close to $8 billion from Indian students.
To bring the overall attendance of international students back to pre-pandemic levels, the US government this year took multiple steps to simplify the student visa application process, including opening thousands of appointment slots and expanding interview waiver options. Under the new visa guidelines, students who have previously held any US visa can apply using the drop box service to bypass the in-person interview.
Responding to The Indian Express’s email seeking comment on the current year’s F-1 visa trend, US Embassy spokesperson in New Delhi Chris Elms wrote: “We don’t have anything beyond the data at travel.state.gov.”
Another country that attracts a lot of foreign students, the UK, too, has registered a sharp increase in Indians getting student visas compared to their Chinese counterparts. The latest UK Immigration Statistics released this week showed that in the July 2021-June 2022 period, the country issued 4,86,868 sponsored study visas. Indian nationals accounted for 1,17,965 of these — an 89 per cent increase from the previous year. Chinese nationals, meanwhile, were granted 1,15,056 study visas.
Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox
Compared to 2019, the increase in the number of study visas granted to Indians amounts to 215 per cent, while those granted to Chinese students have dipped by 4 per cent. The report did not go into the reasons behind the rise and fall of the share of Indian and Chinese nationals in this category. A British High Commission spokesperson said: “We wouldn’t want to speculate on the reasons.”