Shorelight and Presidents' Alliance Report Shows Disproportionate F-1 Visa Denials in Africa and the Global South

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By Shorelight Team
Published on July 26, 2023

Immigration policies that contribute to these patterns of visa denials are missed opportunities to invest in the diverse talents of African students pursuing U.S. higher education and their enormous growth potential in tomorrow’s global economy

Shorelight and the Presidents' Alliance today released a new report providing a data-driven lens to an anecdotal trend where students from the Global South are denied visas to study in the U.S. at disproportionately higher rates than the rest of the world. The Interview of a Lifetime: An analysis of visa denials and international student flows to the U.S. report seeks to support evidence-based policymaking by examining visa adjudication trends by students’ world regions spanning an eight-year period between 2015 and 2022, a period that reflects three presidential administrations.

The report’s findings reveal that F-1 student visa denials have grown significantly in the past eight years across three administrations. In 2015, higher rates of F-1 visa denials were primarily clustered in Africa (with the exception of South Africa), South Asia, and parts of the Middle East. By 2022, F-1 visa denials were seen across much of the world, with the exception of Australia, China, Brazil, South Africa, and some European countries. During this eight-year period from 2015 to 2022, visa denial rates for African countries remained the highest.

By 2030, young Africans will constitute nearly half the world’s youth population. Immigration policies that contribute to these patterns of visa denials are missed opportunities to invest in the diverse talents of African students pursuing U.S. higher education and their enormous growth potential in tomorrow’s global economy. The report also highlights a number of comprehensive policy recommendations to improve visa issuance for students from the Global South and international students from across the globe.

“This report makes it abundantly clear that the high rate of visa denials in Africa and the Global South is contributing to a loss of share of international students to global competitors,” said Shelley Landry, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Shorelight. “As demand for studying abroad grows worldwide, especially in these regions, the US must improve its visa policies to attract talented international students and enrich our classrooms, communities, and the economy.”

Download the full report:

Read additional press coverage:

Latitudes: For students from Africa, visa denials may stand in the way of studying in America

US rejects majority of student visa applications from Africa

Jill on the Hill: US visa policy trends – we can do better