international students US
Universities in Illinois have had enough of how visa delays are affecting international students. Source: Shutterstock

Several international students studying in the US are finding it so hard to get their visas approved that university heads in the state of Illinois are stepping in . They have signed a letter addressed to the state’s congressional delegation to ask for help.

According to the Chicago Tribune, one particular graduate student at the University of Illinois was unable to continue classes last fall due to delays in the renewal of her visa.

The Chinese student’s application was under “administrative processing” when fall classes began, forcing the student to withdraw for the semester. There were no further updates by the time spring semester arrived, and the student had to withdraw again.

Recurring situations like this over the past few years have been widely reported, due to changes in immigration policies under the Trump administration. The country has also seen declining international student enrolment.

It has led to approximately 30 college and university heads in the state of Illinois to push lawmakers in Congress to “do more to help international students and scholars who face new obstacles tied to immigration policy,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

University of Illinois President Tim Killeen and other heads of public and private universities – including DePaul, Loyola, Northwestern – have all signed the letter to Congress.

The letter conveys their concerns about changes in immigration policies and procedures that “undermine the ability of our institutions — and the state of Illinois — to continue benefiting from the important skills and contributions of international students and scholars.”

It also urges lawmakers to “consider expanding so-called dual intent to student visas, which would leave open the prospect of the students later seeking permanent US residency,” so that international students don’t have to face visa denials if they are unable to prove they intend to return to their home countries after graduation.

The letter also notes that international students are facing a “significant increase in obstacles” and “systemic delays” which are affecting universities’ efforts to recruit and retain international talent.

Director of global initiatives at Loyola University Chicago Fraser Turner reportedly said in a statement, “Loyola University Chicago does not waver in its support of these student and scholar groups and are alarmed by policy and procedural changes in the US immigration system that make it more challenging for international populations to teach or study in our classrooms.”

According to data by the NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students have contributed US$1.9 billion to the state’s economy. The data also shows that approximately 53,724 international students enroled in universities and colleges in Illinois last year.

University of Illinois President Tim Killeen said in a statement, “International students and visitors enrich the academic experience for all students, while contributing to Illinois’ economy and competitiveness.”

“As part of our mission of driving innovation and economic growth in Illinois, we are committed to bringing the best and the brightest from around the world to our state.”

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