• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

US study visas to Nigerians drop first time in 3 years

Number of US study visa2023

The number of study visas issued to Nigerians last year dropped for the first time in three years, data compiled by BusinessDay from the US Department of State shows.

According to its visa office, the department issued a total of 7,466 non-immigrant (F-1) visas, down from 7,547 in 2022. Despite the decline, Africa’s most populous nation recorded the highest number of student visas for the continent.

The US Consulate General in Lagos on Wednesday disclosed in an email message to BusinessDay that the consulate issued nearly ten thousand visas to Nigerian students last year and that the country sends more students to U.S. colleges and universities than any other country in Africa.

“In the academic year 2022-2023, a record number of more than 17,000 Nigerians were pursuing U.S. undergraduate and graduate degrees. Last year, we issued nearly ten thousand visas to Nigerian students,” Julie McKay, public affairs officer at the US Consulate said.

This is coming after the US government data presented in an article by David Bier, associate director of immigration studies at The Cato Institute stated that more than a third of prospective international students applying to study in the US last year were turned away.

The data showed that the F-1 visa refusal rate surged to 36 percent in 2023 for a total of 253,355 refusals, higher even than in 2022. The data showed that the rate of refusal for student visas was nearly twice that of refusal for other types of visas.

But McKay said international students were welcome in the United States and were a top priority for the Department of State. 

“We recognise the important contributions these students make to our college and university campuses, the positive impact they have on U.S. communities, and the rich benefits of academic cooperation in increasing cultural understanding and furthering research and knowledge development,” she said.

She explained that all visa applications were adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the provisions of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and applicable federal regulations.

“Consular Officers are trained to assess the circumstances of each individual student visa applicant and visa adjudication policies are consistent worldwide,” she added.

The Association of International Educators measured the economic impact of international students in the US in November 2023, at which point it explained that “Over one million international students at US colleges and universities contributed more than $40 billion to the US economy during the 2022-2023 academic year—up by nearly $6.3 billion (almost 19 percent) compared to the prior academic year—and supported more than 368,000 jobs.”

Bier said that while there may be several factors in the increasing refusal rate, he noted that a particularly influential one may be the rise in Indian applicants.

Those applicants received 29 percent of all visa issuances in 2023 and have historically been more likely than Chinese students to be refused a visa, which means that Indian student applications were likely extremely high in 2023 (though the US government has not released a breakdown of refusals by nationality).

Bier said that it was likely the extreme subjectivity US immigration officials could apply in student visa interviews more than any official immigration strategy that was driving the trend.

He wrote, “The administration needs to increase transparency about student visa denials and adopt a fair and uniform policy for reviews.”

From 2021 to 2023, student visas were denied at nearly twice the rate of all other types of non-immigrant visa applications, such as those for tourism or business, according to State Department data.

“The denials we are seeing are far above the norm, and total college enrolment has fallen very significantly over the last decade,” Bier said in a news article.

It is important to note that the total number of student visas issued in the US has shown steady growth over the past three years, after a record low in 2020 caused by the pandemic.