As 2022 brings about a fresh wave of Indian students ready to continue their education overseas, there’s one destination in particular that those hailing from Gujarat have set their sights on: the US.
The US has emerged as one of the most preferred destinations for Gujarat students over the course of the pandemic, beating popular countries such as Australia and New Zealand. This comes despite the recent surge in Omicron, with the country seeing one million new COVID-19 cases on Monday.
The renewed interest in the US is credited for a number of reasons, the clearest being the recent high rate of student visa approvals for Indians. More than 55,000 Indian students and exchange visitors have been granted their visas in 2021 despite various disruptions.
Among these include a delay in the commencement of the student visa session by two months due to the second wave of COVID-19. Consular offices were additionally given the choice to waive the interview requirement for some F-1 students, providing for faster decisions to be made once visa services could be resumed.
“The US visa rate for Indian students is about 95% and this is by far the highest over the past many years,” says Bhavin Thakker, a visa consultant in Ahmedabad. “Gujarat students are preferring the US to Australia. This holds true for students from other parts of India, too.”
The current 95% approval rate has seen a significant jump from the usual 40% from 2015 to 2020. This indicates an effort to quickly recover from the negative effects the pandemic has had on university admissions.
“Ironically, a number of students who got rejected earlier have got their visas during the pandemic time,” adds Pranav Jotari, another visa consultant.
The high visa approval rate means that Indians are now able to travel to the country and begin their studies after a delay of more than two years.
This is certainly the case for Darshil Patel, a graduate in mechanical engineering. He’s been attempting to enter the country since 2018, but was held back by his visa applications, which were rejected five times. His application was recently approved along with many other student visa success stories.
“I have made a lot of effort to study in the US,” he said to The Times of India. “I have finally reached my destination and I am pursuing a master’s degree in retail management at a university in the state of New Jersey.”
Indian students in USA are rejecting Australia and New Zealand
As the pandemic reared its head, many international students turned away from US universities, in many cases due to border closures, flight cancellations, or other COVID-19 related challenges. Indeed, foreign student enrollment fell by a sharp 15% in the 2020-21 school year.
However, with the emergence of Omicron and a renewed wave of border closures, students are becoming tired of delaying their plans. This has resulted in a large drop in international student applications to previously popular higher education countries. Applications by international students to Australian universities has fallen by 51%, while in New Zealand this figure has declined by a staggering 62%.
“The closure of international borders during the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously had an impact on the willingness of international students to enrol at an Australian university,” explains Anne-Marie Lansdown, the deputy chief executive of Universities Australia. “This may have a long-term impact on the country as we have lost nearly two years of students.”
The US, by contrast, has allowed its borders to remain open with a few conditions. According to US Customs and Border Protection, travellers are required to be fully vaccinated with a valid passport or entry visa, but are otherwise permitted to enter the country.
Clearly, this has caught the attention of international students worldwide. Experts have previously noted that interest in the US remained high over the course of the pandemic. In India, the US has always been an attractive destination, making up the country’s second-largest source of international students.
Over the last two years, however, students were unable to physically travel to the country due to border closures or other related restrictions.
However, border reopenings combined with a friendlier attitude towards students put forward by the Biden administration make it likely that the US will regain its spot as one of the most sought-after higher education destinations in the world. This is certainly the case for Indian students, many of whom are warming up to the country now that it’s better managing the effects of the pandemic.