Number of F-1 student visas issued drops dramatically due to COVID-19

The US has issued significantly fewer F-1 student visas to Indians amid COVID-19 as visa processing services were temporarily suspended and application centres closed, according to data from the US State Department. The number of F-1 visas granted to Indian nationals between October 2019 and September 2020 has dropped 64% compared to the previous year. This is the lowest number of student visas issued in a financial year since 1999-2000.

According to the report, the drop in F-1 student visas was mainly due to the COVID-19 outbreak as the Department of State had temporarily suspended routine visa processing services. US visa offices in India had also cancelled processing of visa applications from March 16, 2020.

International students in the US have had a tumultuous year under the Trump administration which introduced many policies that were viewed as hostile towards foreign students. In July, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a directive stating international students who were taking an online course load could not remain in the US for the fall 2020 semester. While the policy was eventually rescinded, the reversal didn’t apply to newly admitted international students who require F-1 visa sponsorship, fuelling anxiety for many foreign students.

According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), China is the largest source of international students in the US in 2018/19 with 369,548 students, followed by India (202,014), South Korea (52,250), Saudi Arabia (37,080) and Canada (26,122)