August 7, 2021 9:00:02 am
A bipartisan group of influential senators on Friday urged the Biden Administration to accelerate the process of issuing visas to international students, a move likely to benefit thousands of Indians who want to join their classes this Fall.
In India, for instance in Delhi, only emergency visas are currently being issued by the US Embassy, as a result of which a large number of Indian students are uncertain about their academic future for the next session beginning this Fall.
There are over 100,000 Indian students in the US and they contribute significantly to the American economy.
“We write to express our concerns regarding the slow pace of processing student visas as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” two dozen senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
“In order to welcome international students and scholars in the Fall, as competitor countries are doing, we urge the State Department to provide predictable and consistent consular services, maximise alternatives to in-person visa interviews by providing waivers and virtual interviews, extend visa eligibility waivers, authorise staff overtime and increase hiring, and initiate meaningful engagement with outside stakeholders and agencies,” they said.
“We are at a critical point in the academic calendar when international students and scholars must make visa appointments and plan their travel to the United States,” they added.
The senators further said while some US consulates are reopening, most are still operating at lower capacity levels and there remains limited access to visa appointments.
Prospective students cannot be certain about whether their visas will be processed in time for them to travel to the United States to begin their studies, the senators wrote.
“While we appreciate that a National Interest Exception for international students has been created, the processing of these visas in a timely way continues to be a challenge. International students coming to the United States provide significant and essential value to the higher education system and our economy,” they stressed.
Data from the Association of International Educators shows that more than one million international students at US colleges and universities during the 2018-2019 academic year contributed USD 41 billion to the country’s economy.
Furthermore, bringing international students to the United States enriches the educational experience of domestic students that would be more difficult to achieve through online formats.
There are also practical barriers to online learning by international students while physically outside the United States such as not all countries have reliable electricity or internet access and time zone differences require some students to appear online for classes in the middle of the night, the senators said.
There are also countries that limit access to certain information or websites while the US also bars the sharing of certain information with other countries, they added.
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