The organisation has written to acting deputy assistant secretary for Visa Services, Edward J. Ramotowski, asking the in-person requirements to be dropped “to the fullest extent allowable under the law”.

“US schools and exchange visitor programs need clarity now on future visa issuance”

In March, the department issued guidance allowing consular officers “to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview”, NAFSA noted.

“There is recent precedent,” the organisation said.

“US schools and exchange visitor programs need clarity now on future visa issuance in order to plan for and conduct a successful fall 2020 semester,” NAFSA executive director & CEO Esther D. Brimmer said.

“Even though the date and scope might change because of exigencies and unforeseen Covid-19-related issues, knowing the plan the department aspires to for restoring routine visa services will greatly assist in planning for the start of the upcoming academic year.”

Additionally, NAFSA asked that the department provide an estimate as to when the suspension of routine visa services might be lifted, and what the process for lifting the suspension will be.

When processes return to usual, NAFSA suggested visa appointments and processing for international students and exchange visitors be expedited as students face hard start deadlines and ” delays can devastate educational plans and enrolments”.

If routine visa services are not restored worldwide in time for the next year, NAFSA called for prospective students to be offered “emergency appointments”.

“If it is not possible for routine visa services to be restored worldwide we ask that the department instruct US consulates that international students and exchange visitors should be considered eligible for emergency appointments at each consulate,” Brimmer continued.

NAFSA also suggested international students and exchange visitors in countries subject to a country-specific Covid-19 presidential proclamation be deemed eligible for an exception to the rule as “an alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the secretary of State, the secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees”.

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