Global: student visa application services halted
The US State Department suspended visa application services – including those for student visas – at its embassies in most countries last week, with services for citizens remaining open and emergency visa services available “as resources allow”.
A total of 8,742,068 immigrant and non-immigrant visas were issued by US foreign posts in 2019, of which 398,357 were F (student) or M (vocational student) visas.
“Depending on the situation, this [closure] can be adjusted to an even later date”
On its online visa application service portal, the US lists the first available appointment to apply for a student visa in Beijing as “November 29, 2020”, although stakeholders told The PIE News they are hopeful this will be adjusted in the future.
Despite the World Health Organisation continuing to “advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions”, many countries around the world have issued travel restrictions, including major study destinations such as the US, Canada, China and Australia.
However, this has now extended to multiple countries halting visa services, which could lead to a backlog that impacts students wishing to study abroad later in the year.
According to VFS Global, the visa processing company that operates visa services for 64 governments around the world, services have shut down for visa for many EU countries including popular study destinations such as Ireland, Denmark, France, Finland, Switzerland and Belgium.
Embassies and visa services are so far unable to give a date as to when normal visa services will resume.
“Our consular desks are closed until at least April 6,” explained a spokesperson from The Embassy of the Netherlands in China.
“Depending on the situation, this can be adjusted to an even later date.”
But not everyone is shutting down. The Ukrainian Embassy in China told The PIE students can continue to apply for visas “without any restrictions” and some countries are still offering reduced services. Ukraine is currently home to over 75,000 international students.
“INZ’s Beijing, Mumbai and Manila offices are temporarily closed. INZ remains committed to minimising the impact on visa processing times. The Palmerston North Office in New Zealand remains open for student visa processing,” explained Immigration New Zealand.
“Their priority is to process applications from students already in New Zealand who may have visas expiring soon. They will process other applications as resources allow.”
Canada and the UK have closed visa centres in many places, including cities in China and India, but remain open in other areas.