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Visa Denials Doubling for South American and African Students Wanting to Study in the US

Visa Denials Doubling for South American and African Students Wanting to Study in the US

Pursuing higher education is a concept woven into the American dream. Education is the key to a better life, which can be linked to why in 2022, international students from over 227 countries came to study in the United States. Over a million international students were enrolled in the 2019–2022 academic years. 

Despite the high tuition costs of U.S. universities, education in the U.S. often leads to more opportunities. 

Yet, recent studies have shown that there has been a high number of visa denials and discrimination against international students from African countries and some Latin American countries.

This article examines why a country built from immigrants denies opportunities to a selective group of people.

The higher number of visa denials

For international students to study in the United States, they must apply for an F-1 visa. With this visa, they can study in a language program, accredited college, university, academic high school, elementary school, or language training program. 

The requirements for this visa include having proficient English or being enrolled in a course to learn English. Students must also be full-time students at an institution or an educational program. Along with having sufficient funds to support oneself for the entire program and be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Previously, students were allowed to apply for a visa up to 365 days before starting classes. However, in May 2023, this rule changed to 120 days in advance, with a fee increase from $160 to $185.

While these requirements are straightforward, students from Africa and South America are denied F-1 visas more than students from other countries.

However, according to the state department, in 2022, they approved more visas for African students than in the past years: 30,781. Yet other data paints a clearer picture. 

Researchers from the Presidents’ Alliance of Higher Education shared that students from sub-Saharan Africa were denied visas at a higher rate than students from countries, even though the students who were denied visas were accepted to graduate programs and had sufficient funds. 

This information demonstrates that students are meeting the visa requirements and have shown the intellectual skills to be accepted into higher education programs but are being denied during the immigration process.

In fact, refusal rates increased by 15% when former President Donald Trump implemented a travel ban on Nigeria. 

A spokesperson from the state department mentioned that every applicant is evaluated individually, and sometimes students don’t demonstrate strong ties to their home countries. An additional excuse for visa denials includes being unprepared for the rigorous interview process.

Why do so many international students seek higher education in the U.S.?

Although many international students are enrolling in higher education within the U.S., it’s vital to note that there are accredited universities in Africa and South America. As reported by U.S. News, some of the best universities in Africa include: 

  • University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • University of Ibadan, Nigeria

U.S. News also reported the following top schools in South America, including:

  • University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Universidad de Chile, Chile
  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico.

Yet despite having quality schools in Africa and South America, the allure of studying at Harvard, UCLA, or Yale is still tempting. Some students have more opportunities by studying in North America and Europe than in their home countries.

Additionally, diverse students studying in the United States benefit the country. International students can help expand the workforce and open schools up to receive more varied talents.

In 2018, $45 billion were contributed to the U.S. economy, as reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

International students also contribute their diverse perspectives to help expand technical and scientific research within America. 

What the future may hold

As is evident, there are many benefits to having international students from all over come and study within the United States. Unfortunately, this opportunity seems to be unequally shared. 

What will happen if visa denials continue? Will international students start seeking higher education in places such as Europe and Australia? Currently ranked as some of the best universities in the world are:

  • University of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • University of British Columbia, Canada
  • University of Melbourne, Australia

The bottom line is that getting into a prestigious university is a complex process. International students often have to excel in two languages, meet high academic standards, and be willing to adjust to an entirely new culture. 

Suppose students are eager to jump through all the hoops, pay the high tuition costs, and be accepted into an institution. Why should a visa stand in the way of securing a better future? With visa denials and affirmative action being overturned, will U.S. universities start to lose their appeal? 

In an NBC article, Jill Welch, a senior policy adviser at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education, said that admitting global students supports U.S. security, foreign policy, and economic progress. Welch shared: “The inability to secure a visa should never stand in the way of qualified students being able to pursue an educational degree in the U.S.”

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