A United States Department of Commerce education trade mission has arrived in India to further enhance academic relations between the two countries against the backdrop of a huge backlog in visa processing and worrying delays for Indian students and researchers wanting to take up places at universities in the US.
Last month, when worries over visa delays gripped large numbers of Indian students, the US Consulate in Mumbai issued assurances that the vast majority of student visa applicants this summer would be able to be interviewed on time for their programme start dates.
The consulate said it was working to reduce visa wait times and backlogs for millions of individuals, including students.
The US diplomatic mission in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad issued visas to over 82,000 Indian students in May and June this year. Indian students received more US student visas than any other country, including China.
Given the interest of Indian students and researchers in US institutions, the ground for higher education tie-ups between the two countries appears fertile.
Brenda Soya, public affairs officer at the US Consulate in Mumbai, told University World News the education trade mission “aims to promote opportunities between higher education institutions in India and the US, while also assisting Indian students in exploring educational options in the States”.
“The US recognises the value and diversity that Indian students bring to US universities and the US mission in India prioritised the processing of student visa applications from May to August to ensure that as many qualified students as possible made it to their programmes of study,” she said.
However, Vivek Jain, chief business officer of education portal Shiksha.com and jobseeker site Naukri FastForward, conceded that visa backlogs were a serious challenge for students aspiring to study abroad.
Student travel plans are linked to schedules set by universities for classes and students have little flexibility around travel.
“Therefore, flexibility on travel schedules or clearing the visa as per the study schedule on an urgent basis is the need of the hour,” Jain told University World News.
“We have seen a surge of students shifting their country preferences depending on post-study visa rules,” he added. These include countries like Canada and the United Kingdom which are offering post-study work visas.
“Unsurprisingly, the US is the most sought-after destination for Indian students. Thus, further relaxations in US visa availability can potentially increase the number of students vying for admission to US universities,” Jain said.