The embassy has declared that student visas remain one of the top priorities of the U.S mission to India – they plan to make every attempt to facilitate student travel in time for the fall semester of 2021.
By Nandika Handa,
Ever since the pandemic hit the world, international students applying to the U.S.A have had a gruelling time trying to keep up with how to apply for their student visas and all issues linked to their visa applications and status.
The students can finally feel a sense of respite with the recent announcements made by the U.S embassy. The embassy has declared that student visas remain one of the top priorities of the U.S mission to India – they plan to make every attempt to facilitate student travel in time for the fall semester of 2021.
The embassy plans to start rounds of interviews on June 14th of June and these are expected to intensify around July 1st.
Now, students who are beginning their program on August 1st (or 30 days prior), can travel 30 days prior to the programme start date. They do not need to submit a request for national interest exception. Indian students who are applying for the F-1, J-1, M-1 can start booking their appointments by booking online. They may also book for their dependents.
Additionally, students do not need to carry letters from their schools stating classes will be in person.
The embassy has also stated that at this point of time they can’t expedite appointment dates for fall 2021 students. In case students find that their appointment date is affecting the students start date they must reach out to their respective schools to work out further options.
A point of concern and disappointment for some might be that the parents of students who wish to travel with them to settle them (on a visitor visa) will be unable to do so. The only way the parents could facilitate their travel would be to apply for a National Interest Exception, however the embassy won’t be issuing those at the present moment.
Continuing students can also resume their programmes on or after the 1st of August 2021. They may also travel 30 days before their programme date.
In other good news, electronic I-20s, issued by the schools will be permissible by the embassy. The students must print and carry these with them.
Some students find themselves in a dilemma as they had already booked appointments which were cancelled. They have questions such as – “What do we do – Will the embassy contact us? Do we need to book again or will that hamper our application.” The answer to this is very simple- these cancelled appointments must be booked again by the student and the embassy will not contact the students.
There have been many cases where the visa processing fee has been paid and people are still waiting to schedule an appointment. The U.S mission will extend the validity of this payment to the 30th of September 2022. This should aid applicants who were unable to schedule a visa appointment as a result of the suspension of routine consular operations. And should serve to provide them an opportunity to re schedule or attend a visa appointment with the fee that has already been deposited.
With pandemic still raging in India the requirement for a COVID -19 test 72 hours within departure still stands strong. Before boarding the negative test must be cross checked by the airlines and if anyone is found to be COVID positive they will be denied boarding.
A lot of the young population in India have had to bear the brunt of the current vaccine shortage and have not had a chance to get vaccinated as yet. They find themselves worrying about not being allowed into the U.S.A. if the vaccine they finally manage to get is not accepted – The type of vaccine that is accepted will be determined by the school. If the vaccine is not accepted the student may be inoculated upon arrival to their respective schools.
Another cross section of people who were heavily affected in the past year was dependents of F-1 visa holders. There have been cases of many stranded. They too find some reprieve in the fact that they do not need to apply for a National Interest Exemption.
The world certainly seems a brighter place for international students who have had to face a quagmire of very tough situations and uncertainties in the past year. With these efforts coming into place they will hopefully breathe easier and perhaps, will be one step closer to their American dream.
(The author is an Independent writer. She specialises in immigration and globalisation. She is the Executive Director and Head of Business Development of an Investment immigration firm. And is currently based between Bengaluru and Toronto. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)