The dreams of thousands of Indian students were left in limbo after COVID-19 caused travel restrictions to be imposed across the world and countries announced lockdowns. More than nine months into the pandemic, the situation is gradually becoming better. Air travel is resuming, and many countries are opening application processes for international students.
As parents, you will be concerned about sending your child abroad in these uncertain times. However, countries are easing travel bans with stringent measures in place. This is the right time to consider international education as an option. Hiring companies will look for those who have managed to upskill themselves and remained resilient in the face of the pandemic.
Countries are now revising visa guidelines and putting procedures in place to welcome international students and ensure their safety and well-being on campus.
Let’s take a look into the visa guidelines of the top five countries on the list of Indian students:
Indian students form the second-largest group of international students in the US after China in 2018-19, according to the data by the US Department of Commerce. But that might change in the current circumstances. In the wake of COVID-19, the US announced visa restrictions on existing international students and on those who plan to enter the country for the upcoming semester. According to the new guidelines, Indian students beginning their academic year in the fall semester with an online course will not get a US visa till they set foot on campus.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has announced temporary modifications for non-immigrants. These guidelines provide an exemption to those who are taking online classes for the fall 2020 semester conducted in June. Some of these modifications allow classified entry into the US for non-immigrant F-1 and some M-1 students to pursue their academic or vocational coursework in the coming semesters.
Students who don’t prefer to begin their classes online from their home country may consider dropping a semester. Visa restrictions in the US has led to Indian students exploring other promising destinations like the UK, Singapore, Australia, and Canada.
Universities in the United Kingdom are processing applications for student intake scheduled in January and September 2021. All universities are making provisions for continuing lectures without any interruptions during the academic year 2020-2021.
To implement and ensure social distancing compliance, many campuses are embracing hybrid learning, with face-to-face tuition and online lectures and seminars. Students who have been issued a visa and are opting not to travel for the coming academic year must inform their institution, so their visa status can be updated. In case they plan to postpone their studies, they would need to apply for a new visa as their current visa would not cover the full period of study for the next course.
What’s exciting is that the UK’s new post-study work visa or Graduate Route comes into play from the 2020-2021 academic year. Students don’t have to worry about their eligibility for the Graduate Route if they aren’t able to travel to the UK to study. In June, the Home Office released guidance confirming that students who spend some time studying outside the UK will be eligible to switch to the Graduate route. They can do so by beginning a new course through distance or blended learning or if they choose to continue their current studies. These students will, however, be able to avail of this concession if they enter the UK before 6 April 2021 and ensure that they complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.
In July 2020, the Australian Government announced several changes to student visa policies to give international students the confidence to consider Australia as a preferred study destination. The changes include the commencement of the visa granting process so that students can be ready with their visas when borders reopen and the relaxation in eligibility requirements for a post-study work visa for students enrolled with Australian education providers.
Canada is welcoming international students with new measures that will help them pursue studies as well as work opportunities. However, to avail of the benefits of these measures, students should have submitted their study permit applications before starting a course in the spring, fall, or summer 2020 semesters, or the January 2021 semester. The changes to Canada’s Postgraduation Work Permit Program allow students to study online from abroad and qualify for postgraduation work permits on the completion of certain conditions.
One of the few countries to have the lowest number of reported cases of COVID-19 infections, Singapore began allowing new semesters to start in September. Most universities have adopted a hybrid model, with a mix of face-to-face lectures and online sessions. Indian students can apply for courses and wait for approval from the universities.
International students accepted into an approved full-time course in Singapore must apply for a Student’s pass. Only students who have obtained permission from ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority) and MOE (Ministry of Education, Singapore) will be allowed to enter the country. Also, students are required to submit a health declaration up to three days before arrival in Singapore. They will have to do this via SG Arrival Card before travelling.
No compromise on dreams
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the globe, restricting air travel, with no option for international students to return home. These circumstances could last well into next year. Your anxiety as a parent is valid as you worry for your children. In these uncertain times, while sending your children abroad, parents need to be financially ready for any contingencies and rely on trustworthy money transfer options like Western Union Money Transfer.
There may be no magic wand to dispel visa uncertainties, but the stars do portend a swift return to normal.