African students seeking admission to colleges and universities in the U.S. face an arbitrary visa application process, potentially reducing educational opportunities for deserving undergraduate candidates and those seeking a post-graduate degree.
Findadmission.com is urging the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs to review their procedure for student visa applications and provide more specific guidelines for applicants in advance, stated to Shadrack Otchere, West Africa regional manager for Findadmission.com.
Findadmission.com is a Seattle-based online platform working with over 200 accredited institutions in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Europe and China seeking to attract a growing number of students from Africa and the Caribbean.
“Establishing clear and specific guidelines for applicants, coupled with consistent and transparent application review policies by the bureau, would benefit all parties,” Otchere said at a recent press conference in Accra, Ghana.
He said the United States remains a top study destination for qualified African students but noted the student visa application protocol is vague, and in some cases unfair, for qualified students.
“Students using Findadmission.com’s resources have reported inconsistencies in the visa application interview process,” said Otchere. “In some cases, the consular staff person did not grant visas after only asking the applicant’s name. Other students said they were given broad generic reasons for application denials.
He also called for the establishment of refund policy if a visa application is refused without a specific cause. Students who believe they have been treated unfairly currently have no recourse in requesting a refund. Non-refundable fees (I20, SEVISFEE and F1 Visa) now total $400 and are expected to increase by $150 starting June 24th.
“I believe the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, our client institutions and students share the ultimate goal of a fair and equitable visa application process.”
Otchere said the United Kingdom and Germany have successful models for issuing student visas, with embassies providing clear conditions to students in advance in order to meet requirements by embassies. The U.K. requires a student to deposit a substantial portion of their tuition fees prior to issuing an admission letter and demonstrate funds for living expenses are untouched for at least one month. Germany requires the student to pay tuition and have their living expenses deposited into a German bank block account -accessible only on a monthly basis while studying in Germany.
Based on statistics released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in 2016, the number of African students seeking study opportunities abroad increased steadily, from 343,370 in 2006 to 427,311 in 2014. Over 60% of Findadmission students are seeking postgraduate degrees and nearly 40% are undergraduate candidates.