Lack of US visa appointments frustrates international students

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International students bound for the US have expressed their frustration over problems they’re facing amid a lack of visa appointments at American Embassies in certain countries. The problems come despite US officials saying that they would ‘prioritize student and exchange visitor visa programs.’


Reports of students’ frustration come amid International Education Week, which the US has used to position itself as ‘engaged’ with the aims of enabling international education and student ability, according to a report published by The PIE News. 

Asmod Khakurel, a first year student from Nepal who has been studying remotely as part of his course with an Ohio institution since the start of the academic year, told The PIE News that to attend class his day starts at 2.40am owing to the 11-hour time difference between the US and Nepal. 


US Embassy appointment shortage

Khakurel had hoped to secure his US visa at the American Embassy in Kathmandu, which would allow him to take his course in person. However, a shortage of US Embassy appointments has made this challenging.

He said: “I understand because of COVID they are concerned about health and safety, but they do not provide any clear information about it. I’m grateful to my college, they have made me believe they will support us as much as they can, even in remote classes.”

However, Khakurel’s frustrations have been exacerbated having watched many of his friends leave for Hong Kong, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, to start their studies while he remains unable to secure a US visa appointment at the Embassy in Nepal.

According to Khakurel, Embassies of other countries are opening, but the ‘US Embassy is very unclear and it’s very frustrating,’ he said.


Scholarship eligibility 

Khakurel said that for some, the delays could see them cut off from their scholarships. He told The PIE News: “If some students are unable to go to the US next spring, they will lose their scholarships.”

A letter reportedly seen by The PIE News, issued by the University of Texas at San Antonio, has apparently notified all of its Distinguished Presidential Scholarship awardees for the Fall of 2020 that it will not defer scholarships beyond the spring of 2021.


UTSA Scholarship Office

The UTSA Scholarship Office seemingly confirmed the University of Texas’ stance by saying that ‘students must begin taking courses from spring 2021 and must be enrolled full-time, either in-person or online, in order for the Distinguished Presidential Scholarship to disburse.”

Student at the University of Texas, and a UTSA DPS recipient from Nepal, Ranjit Adhikari said that ‘getting such a response from my university is really depressing.’

“I was shattered completely. On one hand, the Embassy is not opening up for visa [appointments] and this is already a frustrating situation because I don’t know if I should wait for its resuming or plan something different by myself,” Adhikari said.

“In the meantime, I am unwilling to study online because I am not sure if I can get the US visa because many people do not get visa even in multiple attempts. So, if I study online and if I do not get visa in future, all the time, money and energy spent will go [to] waste,” he added.


International students a high priority

Amid the frustrations of international students, the US Department of State (DoS), insists that its ‘phased resumption’ of routine student visa services remains a ‘high priority’. The DoS said: “We will make every effort to assist student visa applicants in a timely fashion while keeping our staff and customers safe”.

However, the DoS has said that the only visa appointments currently available at many US Embassies are reserved for emergency applications – usually meaning an urgent medical or humanitarian need to travel to the US.

Senior director of IEM-ISS Services and Volunteer Engagement at NAFSA, Joann Ng Hartmann, told The PIE News: “The issues around visas continue to be a concern and challenge for schools and students.”

“We are aware of students having difficulties securing visa appointments, as not all US Embassies and Consulates have resumed routine visa services due to the impact of COVID-19, but are also hearing anecdotally of students and scholars successfully receiving visas for travel,” Hartmann added.

According to Hartmann, the DoS’ latest guidance does specify that student and exchange visitor visa applicants are being prioritized, along with people who have urgent travel needs. However, Hartmann did point out that even if people secure a US visa, travel bans could still hamper their ability to get to the US.

Hartmann said that she’s hopeful the Biden administration will address the travel ban issue. 


US visa problems across the world

The two biggest senders of international students to the US – China and India – do have options for emergency US visa appointments at American Embassies. However, many are temporarily closed.

Visa applicants in Brazil, Nigeria, Nepal, the UK and Turkey have also reported problems, while people in South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico are experiencing delays despite appointments being available. can help with US employment-based visas

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