Students Turn To Social Media For Immigration Advice: A Growing Trend

Students Turn To Social Media For Immigration Advice: A Growing Trend

Prospective international students are turning to social media for F-1 visa interview advice as demand for studying abroad rebounds post-pandemic. Experts warn of risks from unreliable sources and lack of transparency in visa denials.

Megha ChowdhuryUpdated: Monday, January 08, 2024, 09:42 AM IST
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Prospective international students are turning to social media to share their F-1 visa interview experiences with other users and ask for advice as demand for studying abroad  continues to rebound following the pandemic.

Students Seek Immigration Advice On Social Media

There is a growing  trend of students seeking immigration-related advice on social media.  A 2019 Pew Research Center survey of nearly 750 13- to 17-year-olds found that 45% are online almost constantly and 97% use a social media platform, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Quora. 

Consider the following example: In a Facebook group named ‘US Visa Application’ with almost 2,00,000 members, a user from India asks how to notify the visa officer that he has no intention of staying in the United States, despite the fact that his sister is a green card holder there.

Commenters debate the ethical consequences of not sharing this information on the post. They warn that being dishonest could lead to severe consequences such as permanent blacklisting.

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

Another case found on Reddit shows a user asking about the complete procedure for getting a student visa for the United Kingdom in a group with 500,000 members.

Students Ask Netizens For Advice

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

In July 2023, the Higher Ed Immigration Portal's report showed a significant increase in visa refusals for foreign students seeking to study in the US. However, the report also noted a sharp rise in the number of student visas approved in 2023, surpassing 600,000, the highest level in five years. 

The report indicates that although visa approvals have risen in a broad range of countries, Canada and Australia have also seen a significant rise in visa refusals for international students in recent years.

Students Heavily Dependent On Consultants

According to experts The Free Press Journal spoke to, many people are so desperate for information that they rely on companies and consultants who have no idea what they're doing and will give them bad advice

Swati Patel Vasan a former Consular (Visa) Officer at U.S. Consulate General says, “A lot of people are so desperate for any information that in some cases, students are seeking assistance from various bogus sources to prepare for their interviews.”

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

She 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. 

Most Common Concerns And Issues

Vijeta G Kanwar, a former immigration manager and current Director of Operations at New Zealand Gateway, advised prospective students to obtain information from right sources. 

"Along with the risk of visa rejection, the biggest risk could be landing in suits and falling into the hands of a total bogus operator. We have stories of students who sold land in India, leaving them with little funds and no family support. As a result, students get blacklisted for using illegal means to enter the country,” states Vijeta. 

When asked if she has come across any similar cases, Vijeta gives an example, saying, "A few years ago, I won't name the agents, there was an immigration fraud involving students, more than 160 students were liable for deportation from New Zealand."

“The only way to overcome this is for students and people to be a little more aware of what it can lead to,” adds Vijeta.

Experts Seek More Transparency

Joyce Isaac, an education consultant who runs Providence Education Advisory, 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,” says Joyce, 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 Facebook, Quora, etc" according to Joyce. 

"People post all kinds of information on these portals, even if they haven't personally experienced it." There are numerous such comments that have been copied and pasted from various sources. The biggest issue is that few people present fake documents or information based on public responses," Joyce says. 

However, Joyce emphasises that this does not negate the need for clear and vetted information on the visa application process to be available for prospective international students.

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