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Nationwide visa application delays could cause trouble for international students



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A hand holds a passport. Long visa approval wait times can cause IU students to miss the start dates of their internships and classes. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Delays for visa application approval have been affecting people across the nation, but they have put a special strain on international students trying to work and study in the United States. 

Long waiting times for visa approval can cause IU students to be stranded in their home country long past the start date of their internships and classes.

“It spiked last year for the first time that I can remember,” said Rendy Schrader, student and scholar advising director of IU’s Office of International Services. “We realized last year we had a problem.”

She said most international students who want to study at IU to wait until spring semester to start their classes to ensure they will be approved in time. 

Of the over 1,000 international students who came to IU last year, 38 had issues with delays, Schrader said. 

The issue was caused in part by the federal government’s response to people trying to come to the U.S., Schrader said. She cited travel bans and the government taking a generally more conservative outlook toward immigrants as reasons for the delay.

The countries affected by the Trump administration’s travel bans are the same countries where students are having a difficult time getting their visas approved, such as Iran and Pakistan, Schrader said.

Additional systematic changes in the visa application process have made it difficult for all international students.

The U.S. has introduced more extensive background checks for every applicant, said Bloomington immigration lawyer Christine Popp.

This year the State Department approved social media background checks for applicants, making them include every social media handle they have used on their applications.

This is one of the more time consuming additions to the visa application process, Popp said.

“The across-the-board delays we have seen on every type of visa have increased dramatically under the Trump administration,” Popp said. 

Although it is a recent issue, it’s difficult telling how long it will last or when it could stop.

“I’m not saying this year we’re not going to have a problem, we just can’t predict it,” Schrader said. 

The office will not be able to predict if there will be more delays this year, Schrader said. It has to wait until the end of July, when international students are allowed to apply for visas,. 

“The university is doing everything in our power to get students the tools they need to get here successfully and feel welcome once they get here,” Shrader said. 

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