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Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
29th Nov 2023

US increases visa handling capacity in India

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • The US government is opening new embassies in India to increase capacity for handing Indian visa applications
  • The expansion coincides with reduced visa handling capacity on the part of the Canadian government, which is adding to the challenges Canadian schools and universities are facing this year in the Indian market
  • The US embassy has also announced new rules for Indian applicants, rules that if not observed, will result in cancelled appointments and lost visa fees

American universities and colleges are being supported by their federal government in ramping up their competitive offer to students in India. The latest sign came last week when the US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, announced that the US would open more consulates in India and expand its staff in order to increase capacity to handle Indian visa applications. A consulate has opened in Hyderabad and plans are in the works for Bengaluru and Ahmedabad as well.

Capacity is expanding at a very rapid rate. As reported in The Economic Times of India, Mr Garcetti said that “the number of US visas issued in India had grown by one-third, and the embassy is likely to issue 10 to 15 per cent more visas than usual this calendar year.”

The enthusiasm for Indian visitors, students, and workers is well illustrated in this tweet by the US embassy in India:

In July and August 2023, the US issued 90,000 visas to Indian students, which as the Times points out, means that nearly one out of every four student visas issued in those months was issued to Indian students.

Will the US gain market share from Canada?

As we reported last week, frosty diplomatic relations between Canada and India have led to diminished capacity within the Canadian immigration department for handling Indian study permit applications.

During an October 2023 meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM), Immigration Minister Marc Miller said that only five immigration staff remain in India working on the processing of Indian visa applications, down from 27 before the diplomatic crisis began. He reported that:

  • The target of processing 38,000 visas for Indians by December 2023 will not be met;
  • Only 20,000 visas will be processed due to “limited resources and staff”;
  • The backlog of yet-to-be-processed Indian visa applications will amount to 17,500 as of January 2024.

Mr Miller said that Indian applicants should expect slower overall processing times and responses to enquiries due to limited resources within the department.

If that weren’t worrisome enough for Canadian educators, a major new agent sentiment survey by Academica and Worldwide Educonnect suggests that the Canadian education brand is losing traction in India. During a session at the annual Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) conference in Vancouver this week, Academica President Rod Skinkle shared that just over a third of responding Indian agents felt there had been a significant shift in students' preference for Canada as a result of the current diplomatic crisis, with most reporting that student demand was shifting in favour of Australia and the United Kingdom.

Speaking during that session, Vinay Chaudhry, CEO of Worldwide Educonnect, an agency that sends thousands of Indian students to Canada, said that Canada's competitive position is weakening, partly because it is relatively easy for Indian students to be accepted and approved for study in Canada. He observed that top Indian students are growing more likely to consider the UK and Australia for study abroad.

The US education brand remains prestigious around the world, and this, paired with unprecedented recruitment fervor on the part of the US in India, may lead to still further competition for Canada in the Indian market.

Indian students compose 39.5% of Canada’s total foreign enrolment. In the US, they represent 23% of the total, but this is a major increase over 2020, when Indian students were 17% of all international students in the country.

New rules for Indian applicants

This week, new rules came into effect for Indian students applying to study in the US at any Indian consulate. To prevent fraud, all those applying for F, M, and J student visas are required to use their own passport information when creating a profile and to schedule visa appointments. The US embassy warned:

“Applicants who have created a profile or booked an appointment using an incorrect passport number will not be accepted at the Visa Application Centers (VAC). Their appointments will be canceled, and the visa fee will be lost.”

For additional background, please see:

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