Relaxed Restrictions Help UW International Students

By: Justin Williams
By: Justin Williams

During the past few years, terrorist concerns have prompted enhanced student visa restrictions, which—in turn—have led to sharp declines in international student enrollment.

But, with government officials recently relaxing those restrictions, the UW's international community expects an enhanced educational experience.

Pap Sarr says International students at the University of Wisconsin have been facing high hurdles in their run to study in the states.

According to Sarr, "The visa check would sometimes last up to three months. The average was 67 days, but it would last three months or more."

The Director of the UW's International Student Services says, since 9-11, the federal government's Visa Mantis clearance process has led to declines in international student enrollment at U.S. universities.

"We even heard, 'Had I known this was going to take this long I might have applied elsewhere. Go to United Kingdom or Australia.' We've heard that often," Sarr says.

But Sarr explains, recent revisions have simplified and shortened the student visa process, from as long as three months to just fourteen days.

"There's quite a few people, for example, who had delays in getting their resource, or they just couldn't come."

Lakshmikant Shrinivas is one of roughly 3,500 international UW students. He explains his hope that the shift in restrictions will also provide relief from the process' inherent subjectivity, especially when it comes to interviews with immigration officers.

"Whatever it is, he just has a gut feeling—maybe you're going to be an immigrant so, he just rejects it so, because they don't give a too detailed explanation of why you were rejected, they just, one sentence or a coupla sentences, that's about it."

Shrinivas says all UW students will benefit from the changes, as they help protect the development of global perspectives.

"There's lots of prejudices and stuff, which you just don't get over unless you meet someone from, you know, that culture, or, you know, those places so, I think a diverse, a diverse university is really important."

Sarr says the U.S. State Department isn't compromising safety with the shift, explaining the process of executing background checks has simply become more efficient.

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