We have examined the recent report by the US State Department stating that the total number of F-1 student visas issued in fiscal year 2022 reached both a record high and surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time. The data shows that 411,131 F-1 visas were issued in FY2022, representing a nearly 15% increase from FY2021 and a 13% gain over FY2019. This is an encouraging sign that international student mobility to the US is recovering after the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The growth in F-1 visas has been driven primarily by India, which saw 115,115 student visas issued in 2022, a 43% increase over the previous year. Several other Asian markets like Bangladesh, Japan, Nepal and Vietnam also saw large percentage gains in student visas issued. Europe and Latin America contributed to the growth as well, with countries like France, Germany, Brazil and Colombia posting double digit percentage increases.
However, the growth comes despite rising rejection rates for F-1 visa applicants. In 2022, 35% of all F-1 applications were denied, with rejection rates being highest for African students at 54%. Asian students also encountered a relatively high 36% rejection rate. This shows that while the total number of visas issued has increased, many prospective international students still face challenges in securing student visas.
Looking at the data for the top 10 sending markets to the US, we see declining visas for Chinese students in recent years, offset by large gains for Indian students. Most other major sending countries are now approaching or exceeding their pre-pandemic visa levels. This reflects the ongoing high demand for international study in the US, with key Asian markets leading the recovery.
Overall, the report indicates that the US remains highly attractive as a study destination, evidenced by record F-1 visa issuances surpassing even pre-COVID levels. Asian markets are fueling much of the growth, although healthy increases are also seen across Europe, Africa and Latin America. However, high visa rejection rates may hinder further growth if issues affecting eligibility are not addressed. The US stands to benefit economically and academically by facilitating qualified international students, while maintaining proper visa screening.
In conclusion, the data shows US F-1 student visa issuances recovering strongly from the impact of COVID-19, reaching new record highs driven by key Asian markets like India. However, high visa rejection rates remain an area of concern, especially for students from Africa and Asia. Balancing growth in student visas with appropriate screening will be important for the US to continue benefitting from international student mobility. The current trends point to robust demand for study in America, aided by rising visa approvals that have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
Source: US student visa issuances now exceed pre-COVID levels (icef.com)