One of the many uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 for international students is whether they can send in a student visa application or renew their existing one.
After months of closures, visa application centres are accepting new applications for student visas.
As lockdowns begin to ease in several parts of the world, visa application centres for applying to countries such as the UK, Denmark, France and Canada are now reopening in the following countries:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
Stephanie Harris, head of international engagement (Non-EU) at Universities UK International, told The PIE News, “The closure of VACs (visa application centres) has been a significant challenge for incoming international students looking to study at UK universities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This progress means more students can confidently pursue their plans to study with us.”
“We are continuing to work with partners to find solutions to outstanding challenges, as outlined in a paper jointly published by UUKi, BUILA, and UKCISA, but this is very welcome progress.”
Will there be student visa application delays?
Even though visa application centres are reopening, there will likely be delays and limited appointments due to the immense backlog and social distancing requirements.
Not all countries are open for visa applications. Some popular study abroad destinations are only allowing visa applications from citizens of certain countries.
For example, Canada has reopened centres in Spain, Thailand, France, and Australia, but is yet to do the same in India.
Chief executive of UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) Anne Marie Graham, told The PIE News, “It’s great news that visa application centres and English language testing is opening up globally, not just in China.”
“There will undoubtedly be some backlog to work through, but it will be hugely beneficial for UK institutions in their planning for autumn intake, and in their communications to continuing and prospective students.”
A statement by VFS Global, the world’s largest visa outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide, reads, “Your safety is our priority, so customers visiting our visa application centres may be asked to observe physical distancing, undergo temperature checks or be required to wear facemasks, subject to local authority guidelines.”
A campaign by international students from India is asking Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for urgent processing of student visas, and has already received more than 24,000 signatures on change.org.
According to the petition, “Students who are waiting for a visa need certainty about their future. If the visa is refused after months of waiting, they might lose an entire academic year worth of precious time which can never be recovered.
“If they are given a visa decision either positive or negative in a timely fashion, they can plan their future and make alternative arrangements for their higher education.”