Visa Denials Cause Trouble For African and South American Students Wanting To Study In the States

International students are facing hurdles in finishing their studies in the United States. NBC News reports that students from Africa and some South American countries have been denied visas at higher rates than students from anywhere else in the world.

Between 2015 and 2022, the number of F-1 denials for students applying to U.S. universities and colleges has risen dramatically, with rates across Africa remaining the highest of all the reported regions. South America isn’t too far behind—doubling in the last 10 years.

The data from Shorelight and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration shows in 2015, F-1 student visa denials were high for African students, except for those in southern Africa, South Asia, and parts of the Middle East. After the COVID-19 pandemic, denials grew around the world but skipped over Australia, China, Brazil, South Africa, and certain European countries.

Visas are granted on a case-by-case basis. A State Department spokesperson said the most student visas in a year were issued in 2022 since 2016. The department approved over 30,000 F-1 visas for students from African countries. To get denied, the department said some students might not meet the requirements with “the presumption of immigrant intent,” meaning they haven’t shown strong ties to their home countries to qualify for a nonimmigrant visa.

Senior adviser at the Presidents’ Alliance, Rajika Bhandari, says the data confirms a trend in higher education that they have focused on for a while. “For many years, there’s been a lot of speculation, a lot of anecdotal reports of students from the Global South being denied visas at higher rates compared with students from other world regions,” Bhandari said, according to Inside Higher Ed. “What’s striking is how high those visa denial rates are from Africa in particular.”

Researchers also assume the F-1 denials occur based on students being unprepared for the tedious visa interview or not having adequate funding to finish U.S. education. However, data shows that 40% of students from sub-Saharan Africa admitted to graduate programs and have secured the funds are still denied.