August 11, 2023

U.S. Rejects Over 50% Of Student Visa Applications From African Countries, Report Finds

African Students

A new report from the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and Shorelight Education has found that students from African nations and the Global South are more likely to have visas rejected.

What did the report find?

The data from the report was collected through public records requests and found that visa denials to study in the U.S. rose significantly from 2015-2022, especially for Global South countries. African students faced a visa rejection rate of over 50% in 2022, up nearly 10% since 2015.

The report stated that in 2015, higher rates of F-1 student visa, which allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited educational institution, denials were primarily clustered in Africa, South Asia, and parts of the Middle East.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, F-1 visa denials were seen across much of the world except Australia, China, Brazil, South Africa and some European countries.

During these eight years, from 2015 to 2022, visa denial rates for African countries remained the highest.

“This report shows a clear pattern of disparate outcomes, and we are eager to work with the higher education community and the government to address the root causes,” said Jill Welch, Senior Policy Advisor at the President’s’ Alliance.

“The inability to secure a visa should never stand in the way of qualified students being able to pursue a U.S. educational degree.”

Why are the visas being denied?

According to Black Enterprise, a State Department spokesperson said 2022 saw the highest number of student visas issued in a year since 2016—over 30,000 of the approved F-1 visas for students from African countries.

Visa applications may only be accepted if students meet the requirements.

 For example, failure to meet “the presumption of immigrant intent” condition means the applicant hasn’t shown strong ties to their home countries to qualify for a non-immigrant visa.

Nevertheless, senior advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance, Rajika Bhandari, told Inside Higher Ed, “What’s striking is how high those visa denial rates are from Africa in particular.” 

Missed opportunities

Although it has been assumed that F-1 denials occur based on students needing more preparation for the tedious visa interview or adequate funding to finish a U.S. education.

However, the report states, “Testimonials from international students and discussion forums of groups that serve international students are rife with concerns that students who have met every admissions and financial requirement and are seemingly well-prepared for their high-stakes visa interview, are nonetheless denied visas.”

However, data shows that 40% of students from sub-Saharan Africa admitted to graduate programs and have secured the funds still need to be allowed.

The researchers added the excessive denial rate is a missed opportunity to host talented students in the U.S.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.