Although the university hopes that the introduction of the vaccine will normalize the fall semester, there are still questions about international students who have scaled back their plans due to the pandemic. Will they arrive on campus in time?
Experts say that although students have been exempted from coronavirus-related Travel restrictionsHowever, the closure of overseas US consulates and the backlog may make them wait for visas until September.
“Remember, they not only apply for visas for freshmen for the 2021-2022 school year, but also for our freshmen last year. We have been told that once the consulate is completed and fully operational, it will take several months for them to resolve the backlog of work. ,” said Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations for the U.S. Board of Education.
Elizabeth Goss, an immigration lawyer who specializes in obtaining visas for immigrants, said that before the pandemic, the departure of long-term diplomatic service personnel and the marginalization of non-essential staff during the period caused embassies and consulates to be hit. These factors will also affect the speed at which students determine travel plans.
“As these different consulates and embassies start processing again, the verdict will be slow and the queue will be very long,” Goss said, adding that students will compete with other types of travelers to pass their paperwork. “They will waive some interviews, but for all first-time F-1 student visas, they still want to assess whether they want to issue the visa five minutes before the window.”
Although Goss said that the State Department has always prioritized students and scholars, it is unclear whether this model will continue. She added that June and July are the busiest months for student visa applications.
“We just started to see,’Well, I have an appointment, but it’s September 21st, so what should I do now?'” Goss said.
Admissions take a hit
COVID-19 has hit the enrollment rate of international students.The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which maintains federal data on student visa holders, reports that the number of valid F-1 and M-1 visas has dropped nearly 18% 2020 will be nationwide. In the fall of 2020, the number of new international students enrolled in American academic programs fell by 91%. The number of new international students enrolled in vocational courses has fallen by 72%.
The report shows that last year, China and India had nearly 382,600 and 207,500 active international students in the United States, far exceeding other countries. South Korea ranks third with approximately 68,200 students. Spreitzer said that some people worry about whether students will be here on the start date of their study program, or whether they need to start online classes before heading to the states.
The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have required universities to maintain flexibility and allow students to continue their courses even if they are outside the United States. Spletzer said this is not an ideal situation.
“There is a problem with the time zone. In the US, in fact, classes at 4 pm may be 4 am,” Spreitzer said. “There is a firewall problem. Like many of our domestic students, our international students also face Wi-Fi and broadband problems.”
Goss said that although the Chinese consulate is opening, students who start university there may also face visa refusals from the United States if they appear to be attending a school funded by the Chinese military.
“My suspicion is-it’s like playing a mole. There will be other things we didn’t expect in the summer,” Goss said. “Maybe there will be another [COVID-19] Jianfeng or another post or consulate just overwhelmed. This is the beginning of the season, so we just need to see how it goes. “
Feel the impact
There has been some positive momentum.Federal officials provided clarify Face-to-face course requirements for student visa holders. Spreitzer said that even if the school uses a mixed class model, as long as there are some face-to-face components, newly enrolled international students can enter the United States.
“It’s important to get this early,” she said. “We don’t want them to wait until summer because obviously students are choosing where they are going to study, they are booking tickets for travel, and they are trying to figure out their living conditions.”
Spreitzer has heard of concerns about the impact of students who wish to enter the United States for summer courses, but said that it is not yet clear whether federal agencies will update their policies to include them.
Although some international students are worried about arriving on campus on time, others have the opposite problem: getting stuck in college.
Compared with friends who returned to his hometown in Pune, India, Rohan Bandekar, a 21-year-old integrated media marketing student, may be lucky. When the coronavirus shut down Juniata College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, Bandeka made the difficult decision to stay in the United States. Moving to Huntington, a town with a population of 7,000, is the first time Bandekar has been away from his family. He plans to visit India between the end of the semester and returning to work in the summer before the students will not return to campus after spring break. Things have become very different.
“It was very scary, because obviously I was 8,000 miles from home, and Huntington was a very rural town,” he recalled. “They didn’t really prepare food for people who couldn’t go home. This was also the same time the flight was closed, which had never happened in my lifetime. At the time, it was an uncertain thing. I was trapped alone after leaving my family. How long is it here?”
Bandekar said that when the Juniata College community came forward, he received many calls from people asking if he needed a place to live. In the end, he spent two months with his roommate’s family in Allentown, about 64 miles northwest of Huntington.
Last summer, when federal officials announced that if international students take classes entirely online, they will not be allowed to stay in the United States, which caused an additional period of anxiety.The decision is Reverse After the Harvard and MIT lawsuits.
“When flights are difficult and other countries close their borders, will I be kicked out of this country?” Bandekar wanted to know at the time. “I was a little afraid of being stateless for a while, but luckily it didn’t happen. Juniata also sent us an email saying,’Don’t worry. Even if we are online, we will take some classes in person, So if you need to, you can stay here.'”
Bandekar was able to visit his family in India during the winter break, but decided to stay in Pennsylvania again this summer. Looking back on the past year, he has strengthened his resilience.
He said: “Even with a mask, even with a cold lunch, even with social distancing, I have had a wonderful year.” “If I go home or the university is not open, I will miss all of this. Being together is a kind of A place that the Internet cannot really replace.”