Addressing international student visa processing issues including excessively long and unpredictable interview wait times and a disproportionately high visa denial rate for applications from the Global South is a major public policy and regulatory practice priority for NAFSA. 

NAFSA Advocacy

  • On July 3, 2024,  NAFSA joined the American Council on Education and 18 other higher education associations in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the agency to prioritize student visa processing in India and other countries that are seeing increased student visa applications. The letter asks the State Department to take actions to prioritize student visa processing during the summer months so students don't miss the start of the 2024–25 academic year.
  • On June 17, 2024, the U.S. for Success Coalition – of which NAFSA is a founding member – sent a letter to Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Rena Bitter requesting a meeting to discuss ongoing concerns with lengthy visa interview and processing delays affecting international students planning to arrive on U.S. campuses on time in the fall.
  • In May 2024, as numerous U.S. consulates, particularly in the Global South, increasingly report lengthy interview wait times for international students, the U.S. for Success Coalition launched an advocacy campaign urging members of Congress to intervene on the visa processing issues including long wait times and lack of transparency surrounding visa processing and adjudication protocols and procedures.
  • On August 10, 2023, NAFSA, Shorelight, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration met with officials from the Department of State’s Consular Affairs office following the release of a July 2023 report detailing high visa denial rates in the Global South, especially in Africa. Consular Affairs officials pledged to address any inconsistencies in requirements, experience, or treatment.  

Take Action

  • Urge all members of Congress to press the Department of State to improve visa processing and address the disproportionately high visa denial rate by providing greater clarity, predictability, and consistency.

Congressional Activity

  • On July 3, 2024, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) organized a sign-on letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging swift action to address the alarmingly high visa denial rate affecting students from the Global South, particularly Africa. Specifically, the letter requests that the Department of State issue new guidance to consular officers that will help ensure that qualified students from developing countries have an equal opportunity to pursue an education in the United States. 
  • On July 27, 2023, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Visa Processing Improvement Act (S. 2632) to expand in-person interview waivers, set timeframes for visa interviews, initiate pilot programs, and improve accountability and transparency among other changes. 
  • On August 6, 2021, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) led a letter to the State Department urging the department to address the backlog of visas for international students, which NAFSA applauded in a statement.

Additional Resources