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US announces changes to student visa application process

The US State Department has announced policy changes that will affect international students going to the country.

During the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA) in Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that they had simplified the Visa application for students from foreign countries, including Kenya, who wish to study abroad.

He said that applicants will no longer have to do an interview to conclude their application.

This change is a major departure from the usual processes, which initially needed an interview.

The Department further increased the amount of time allowed to submit a Visa application from 120 days to a full year.

Addressing the Visa reforms, Blinken stated the importance of building partnerships with other countries, in order to avail students more options to study abroad.

He applauded organizations like NAFSA for helping students seize opportunities and for organizing student exchanges.

“At the State Department, we are working to expand international education. After the acute phase of the pandemic ended, more and more international students began applying to study in the US again. We took steps to streamline our visa process and make it easier for students to apply,” he said.

Raghwa Gopal, CEO of M Square Media, hailed the US government for taking the step to increase international study programs. Gopal proclaimed that the short-term educational courses would be beneficial to students by equipping them with skills needed for further international engagements.

The academic student program provides a pathway for foreign students to gain admittance into a certified college, university, high school or other learning program in the US. The school must be officially recognized by the US government to admit foreign students, and the course should culminate in a diploma, certificate or degree.

The latest news comes just days after they postponed the date for the increase of worldwide visa fees to June 17 from the earlier pronounced date of May 30, amid a public outcry that will see some applicants pay upto Sh42,000 to acquire the travel document.

The categories affected include business and tourist visas (categories B1/B2S), students (F) and exchange visitor visas (J) which will increase from Sh21,800 ($160) to Sh25,206 ($185), while visas for temporary workers (H, L, O, P, Q, and R categories) will cost Sh27,941 ($205) from Sh25,897 ($190).

The US Embassy in Nairobi said that they acknowledged the critical importance that international travel plays in the US economy noting that visas especially for work and tourism are central to President Joe Biden’s foreign policy, and insisted that the charges are only meant to recover the costs of providing the consular services.

This is the first time since 2014 that the fees for non-immigrant visas are being increased.

The embassy has been contending with a huge backlog of visa interviews following halting of the process in 2020 as part of the safety measures introduced at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, the Embassy slashed the waiting period for visa interviews for visiting Kenyans and allowed renewal of some categories without going for physical appointments.

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