Students turn to social media and consultants for US visa advice


Students turn to social media and consultants for US visa advice

Prospective international students are turning to social media to compare their F-1 visa interview experiences and access advice as demand for US study continues to rebound following the pandemic. 

International students are turning to social media to compare visa interview experiences. Photo: Pexels.

The proportion of students being rejected for F-1 visas rose between 2015 to 2022

The country issued over 600,000 student visas in 2023 – the highest level in five years – but concerns remain about high rejection rates from certain regions, including Sub-Saharan Africa.

In a Facebook group with over 200,000 members, one user, whose profile shows they are from Nepal, asks: “My sister is in USA. She is green card holder. How can I present I don’t have any intention to stay USA despite my sister being a card holder there.”

Below the post, commenters debate whether or not to tell the visa officer that he has a sister. Some point out that lying about this could get the original poster blacklisted for life. 

“You need to show stronger ties back home, may be a job, a business, substantial income/property, family which makes you come back home after your studies,” one commenter suggests. 

In other cases, students write out – almost word for word – what was said during their interview and then ask for opinions on why they were rejected. 

Securing a visa to study in the US has become harder in recent years. The proportion of students being rejected for F-1 visas rose between 2015 to 2022, according to analysis by Shorelight, with African students facing the highest rejection rates. 

In some cases, students are turning to consultants to help them prepare for their interview. Christopher Richardson is a former US visa officer who founded Argo Visa after seeing students make similar mistakes in their interviews. 

“I’ve done tens of thousands of them and what I found was that there was just so much mystery behind the visa interview,” he said. “I really felt that there was a huge knowledge gap.”

He said common mistakes include not giving compelling reasons for choosing their school or failing to provide a clear answer about how they plan to fund their studies. 

“A lot of people are so desperate for any information”

Although Argo Visa is staffed by former visa officers, not everyone offering immigration advice to international students has the same qualifications. 

“A lot of people are so desperate for any information that they rely on companies and consultants that just don’t know what they’re doing and will give them bad advice,” Richardson said. 

A spokesperson at the US Bureau of Consular Affairs advised prospective students to seek information from an EducationUSA advising centre near them or use the body’s online resources.

The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration has called for more transparency from the government about the reasoning for visa denials.

“When prospective students are denied visas, they are often left to guess what aspects of their application may have led to the denial,” the organisation wrote in a recent report, calling for students who failed their interviews to be given a “clear written explanation” for the denial.

“It is not unusual for all students – international and domestic –to engage in discussions with their peers about various aspects about the college admissions process on social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook [and] YouTube,” a spokesperson from The Presidents’ Alliance told The PIE News

“However, this does not discount the need for clear and vetted information on the visa application process to be available for prospective international students”.

The US Bureau of Consular Affairs told The PIE that visa applicants are judged on a case-by-case basis.

“Worldwide, most student visa applicants receive a visa upon adjudication, though some do fail to meet the requirements and overcome INA section 214(b), which includes the presumption of immigrant intent,” the spokesperson said.

“If refused, a consular officer will provide a nonimmigrant visa applicant with documentation indicating the INA section under which they are ineligible.”

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