The U.S. Mission in India organised its sixth annual Student Visa Day on June 7 in the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai as more than 1,300 Indian student visa applicants were interviewed here.
The Student Visa Day was also held in the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and Consulate Generals in Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata. More than 4000 students attended the student visa interviews across India, according to Consular Section Chief Robert Batchelder.
Many Indian students, who appeared for the interview at the US Consulate in Mumbai between the allotted time slot of 8 AM - 1 PM, were congratulated by the U.S. Mission led by the Consul General of the United States in Mumbai, David J. Ranz.
Addressing the students, Mr. Ranz welcomed them to the United States for their academic careers. “A degree from the US can take you anywhere in the world. The United States is a diverse and amazing country and has also seen a reduction in crime since the 90s with more security programmes making the country a welcoming place for foreign students,” said Mr. Ranz to the crowd present at the event.
Student visa recipients at the event also expressed their excitement about making their academic move to the US.
Consul General, David Ranz, interacting with students
“I am doing a course in Generative Machine Learning. I plan to spend two years working with the labs available at the university, understand the processes, and eventually work on building a startup,” said Shivam Sharma, who took his admission to the University of California Davis. A student named Anand Vishwakarma, who got enrolled at New York University, received a scholarship of 9000 US dollars, and appreciated the Student Visa Day for “signifying the importance of the India-US relationship”.
Divya Shetty from India’s high-tech city of Bangalore said that she aims to find her strength in Research-based learning and wants to explore the opportunities in the US.
Students, who hail from smaller cities, also came to Mumbai to attend the visa interview. “I had applied for a course in Data Science almost everywhere and was left with two options, one being the University of Southern California and the University of Colorado Boulder. I chose Boulder because it’s a small city and provides ample opportunities suitable for my course,” said Shubhankar, from Aurangabad, who aims to apply for a scholarship soon.
While some pride themselves on being able to be the first in their family to pursue Masters abroad. “Going to the US for studies is an amazing achievement for me as I am the first person in my family to study abroad,” said Aakash Vichaare who aims to come back to India with a better understanding of technology and aspects of Mechanical Engineering through his course duration at the University of Washington in Seattle.
While laying out the broader role they play in US-India relations, Consul General, David Ranz stated that Indian students are a top priority for not only the Consulate General in Mumbai but also the US Government for a variety of reasons. “Students are among many people who travel back and forth between the United States and India. They represent the cultural bridge between both countries as many Americans understand Indian culture through them, while Indian students are also able to learn more about the US,” stated Ranz, who added that many of the Indian students do come back to India and apply their skills and experiences to the long term development of the country.
“Students are also a big business for the US, with Indian students contributing more than 8 billion dollars a year to the US economy. When I came to India in 2019, we were hovering around 200,000 Indian students and expected higher numbers by 2022 if not for the pandemic but last year we issued a record 100,000 visa applications to Indian students and might double that number in 2022 according to the numbers with us,” added Ranz, who assured that the US Mission will fulfil the commitment of making sure Indian students, who have a valid University admission, can study in the country and arrive on their first day in the US despite the Covid situation.
(From left to right) Ryan Pereira, Regional Officer, USIEF Mumbai ; David Ranz, US Consul General, Mumbai ; Robert Batchelder, Consular Section Chief, US Consulate General Mumbai ; Harold Brayman, Commerical Officer, US Consulate
The Consulate also expects more females in India to pursue courses in the country to better reflect the diverse group of people from the country, while noting that female STEM applicants have increased.
Mr. Ranz also endorsed the role Community Colleges can play among the students. “Community colleges aim to provide cheaper options to students and provide a lot of opportunities. If you have problems with language, grades, finances, etc, programmes by Community Colleges might be beneficial. There are not just 10-20 colleges in the US that students can go to, smaller universities also have their pluses and minuses and students can consider them as well,” added Ranz.
With a lot of questions around second-time applicants, Consular Section Chief Robert Batchelder clarified that they want to make sure all the students get an interview thus second-time applicants who got rejected the first time around could have their interviews scheduled in the later half, after June-July. Mr. Robert further added that B1/B2 visa interview slots are now only available for 2023, for first-time applicants.
While courses like Business Analytics, and Management remain popular, students are increasingly opting for post-graduation in courses such as Fine Arts as well.
The National Education Policy has also caught the imagination of the US Mission which foresees a collaboration with a prominent Indian University, in the short to medium term, which can offer dual degrees.
With an expectation of more than a lakh applicants in the next three months and an increasing enthusiasm among Indian students to study in the US, the prevalence of fraudulent activities was also addressed by the members present.
“Though we have no restrictions on students making use of agencies and consultancies in their education journey to the US, it’s important that students are responsible and honest about their background during visa interviews,” said Mr. Ranz whose points were echoed by Ryan Pereira, the Regional Officer of USIEF in Mumbai. “Education USA and USIEF have all the resources available with them to guide the students through their queries about finances, safety, procedures, etc. Consular services, which includes the Visa counsel, have done several webinars and talked to students on multiple aspects of the study journey which aims to help them throughout the same,” added Mr. Pereira.