Hyderabad: Aspirants for international education are facing obstacles due to extended visa processing times, hindering their plans for study abroad. Educational consultancies have noted a decline of 20-30% in students intending to study in the US, with a similar downturn for Canada, which has not completely restored its visa operations for Indian applicants.

Ajaya Kumar Vemulapati, a partner at IMFS, a local overseas education consultancy, reports a significant drop in interest for the US. “The current scenario isn’t characterized by a frenzy to move to the US. The pool of applicants has narrowed to those who are genuinely committed,” he stated.

The situation in Canada is further complicated by diplomatic tensions and employment uncertainties. Akshitha V, a recent engineering graduate, expressed frustration over the lack of communication from a prospective employer despite securing a job through campus recruitment.

In light of these challenges, consultancies indicate a pivot towards countries like Australia, Germany, and Ireland as alternative study destinations for those seeking to pursue their masters.

In a move that could reshape the academic landscape, President Joe Biden has enacted an executive order concerning the regulation of AI technologies, necessitating that companies disclose the potential risks of their AI operations. Concurrently, the order is designed to entice global talent, particularly in STEM disciplines, by streamlining the visa interview process. This reform could affect approximately 450,000 international students in the US, notably impacting those engaged in OPT, with Indian and Chinese nationals likely to feel the most significant effects. Additionally, the revised J-1 skills list is set to open new visa opportunities for a greater number of qualified J-1 visa recipients.

Meanwhile, Indian tourists are turning their sights to countries like Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Turkey, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka as they face delays in obtaining US and Schengen visas. A McKinsey report forecasts that Indian international travel could surge to 80-90 million voyages annually by 2040. Thailand has waived visa fees for Indians, Saudi Arabia aims to attract 2.4 million Indian tourists by 2024, Australia has simplified its visa application process, Turkey provides accessible direct flights, Sri Lanka is granting visa-free entry to Indians, and Russia has introduced e-visa options for Indians.

The US embassy in India made an announcement regarding the opening of nonimmigrant visa slots, only for applicants to discover the lack of availability for 2023. Despite the embassy’s claim of releasing over 250,000 appointments, potential visitors took to social media to air their grievances about the unavailability of slots within the current year. Yet, the embassy has reached a milestone this summer, issuing more than 90,000 student visas to Indian nationals during June, July, and August.

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