Press Release

Welch Leads Colleagues in Letter Calling on State Department to Clarify Student Visa Adjudication Standards

Jul 9, 2024

Recent investigation shows students from African countries were denied at significantly higher rates

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt) led seven Senators in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the State Department to update its student visa adjudication guidance to ensure that all qualified students have an equal opportunity to continue their academic journey in the United States. The Senators’ letter cites data from the past eight years obtained from an investigation into the State Department’s student visa denials showing students from African countries were denied at significantly higher rates than those from other regions of the world. 

The Senators urged the Department to clarify guidelines used to examine applicants’ intent to remain in the United States, which reports suggest may place students from developing countries at a disadvantage when interviewing with State consular officers. 

“In the Immigration and Nationality Act, Congress established a broad framework to safeguard America’s interests and guide the adjudication of nonimmigrant visa applications, including those for F-1 and F-2 visas. At the same time, Congress granted the State Department considerable discretion to adjudicate applications on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the law. As you know, the State Department publishes and routinely updates the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) to ensure Department officials exercise that discretion fairly and consistently,” wrote the senators

The senators continued: “To ensure that all qualified candidates can access U.S. institutions of higher education, we urge the State Department to issue consular officer guidance clarifying that while student visa applicants must demonstrate that they have a foreign residence which they do not intend to abandon, such students may still demonstrate their intention to depart the United States after a temporary period of stay despite: 

  1. Political or economic instability of the student’s country of origin that make it temporarily impracticable for the student to return; 
  2. Being the beneficiary of a pending Priority 4 category application for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP);  
  3. Being the beneficiary of an approved or pending permanent labor certification application or immigrant visa petition; or  
  4. Having family members in the United States.”

The letter is supported by Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration; NAFSA: Association of International Educators; U.S. for Success Coalition; Shorelight, LLC; Alliance for International Exchange; American Institute for Foreign Study; MPOWER Financing; Council of Graduate Schools; Greenheart International; Global Detroit; AIRC: Association of International Enrollment Management; Association of International Education Administrators; World Education Services; TESOL International Association; American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers; The Brennan Group, LLC; EnglishUSA; and Kaplan International.

Read the full text of the letter.