Tuesday, May 21, 2024

High US visa denial rate among African students worries lobby groups

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A lobby group is worried on continuously high US visa denial rate among African students compared to other regions.

A top official from  Association of International Educators- NAFSA has told VOA that they are yet to investigate the reason for the trend.

Fanta Aw, executive director at NAFSA said they met with U.S. State Department officials in 2023 to discuss the issue and plan to meet again in the coming months.

In 2023, The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration working with Shorelight released a report showing a trend where students from the Global South are denied visas to study in the U.S. at disproportionately higher rates than the rest of the world.

The Interview of a Lifetime: An analysis of visa denials and international student flows to the U.S. report examined visa adjudication trends spanning an eight-year period between 2015 and 2022, a period that spans three presidential administrations.

“There is much hand-wringing about why the U.S. is not attracting more international students and yet–as our new and first-ever analysis shows–there is global talent that is eager and poised to study and succeed in the U.S., yet is turned away,” said Rajika Bhandari, Senior Advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance at the time.

Ultimate barrier

“International students today overcome many hurdles to study in the U.S., but a visa represents the ultimate barrier to entry that can thwart the dreams and potential of these students while also shortchanging U.S. institutions, the workforce, and our economy. Everybody loses when a well-qualified student is denied a visa.”

The report’s findings reveal that F-1 student visa denials have grown significantly in the past eight years. In 2015, higher rates of F-1 visa denials were primarily clustered in Africa (with the exception of South Africa), South Asia, and parts of the Middle East.

By 2022, F-1 visa denials were seen across much of the world, with the exception of Australia, China, Brazil, South Africa and some European countries. During this eight-year period from 2015 to 2022, visa denial rates for African countries remained the highest.

“This report shows a clear pattern of disparate outcomes, and we are eager to work with the higher education community and the government to address the root causes,” said Jill Welch, Senior Policy Advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance.

“The U.S. government, and the [Biden] Administration in particular, has made some important improvements in visa processing; now we need to build on those improvements to ensure greater equity so that the U.S. can benefit from the potential of these students from the Global South, and the African continent in particular.

The inability to secure a visa should never stand in the way of qualified students being able to pursue a U.S. educational degree.”

The report also highlights a number of comprehensive policy recommendations to improve visa issuance for students from the Global South and international students from across the globe.

And the high US visa denial rate is costly according to helley Landry, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Shorelight.

“The high rate of visa denials in Africa and the Global South is contributing to a loss of share of international students to global competitors.”

“As demand for studying abroad grows worldwide, especially in these regions, the US must improve its visa policies to attract talented international students and enrich our classrooms, communities, and the economy.”

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