July 12, 2013
Dear Congress, Please Fix the Student-Visa System Too

Stepping into the American Embassy in New Delhi can be a terrifying experience. As I stood in line in 2012 to get my student visa to attend Swarthmore College, waiting to be interviewed by one of several people seated behind thick glass panes, I watched the interviews of those before me, gradually growing more nervous as I realized that the course of my life depended on receiving a student visa.
Most interviews were short, insignificant affairs. Others began with polite pleasantries and quickly turned into aggressive questioning and fumbling answers if the applicants’ documents did not present a convincing story. One woman was asked to produce a wedding photograph to prove she was married to the man that she wanted to join in America. Another was grilled about her multiple attempts to get student visas for programs at different institutions.
Though I saw applicants trying to gain access to better lives with more opportunities, the interviewers probably saw potential terrorists or drains on the social safety net trying to con the immigration system. Watching my countrymen denied access to America, I was convinced that I’d probably forgotten an essential document in my application and would be publicly yelled at just like the others.
Fortunately, my anxiety was unfounded, and my interview was short and smooth. But the cases of the women in front of me are representative of some of the problems that the new immigration bill seeks to address: The Senate bill contains new restrictions on work visas for family members, and measures to crack down on academic institutions that serve as a front for people to enter on student visas before moving to full-time employment.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Dear Congress, Please Fix the Student-Visa System Too

Stepping into the American Embassy in New Delhi can be a terrifying experience. As I stood in line in 2012 to get my student visa to attend Swarthmore College, waiting to be interviewed by one of several people seated behind thick glass panes, I watched the interviews of those before me, gradually growing more nervous as I realized that the course of my life depended on receiving a student visa.

Most interviews were short, insignificant affairs. Others began with polite pleasantries and quickly turned into aggressive questioning and fumbling answers if the applicants’ documents did not present a convincing story. One woman was asked to produce a wedding photograph to prove she was married to the man that she wanted to join in America. Another was grilled about her multiple attempts to get student visas for programs at different institutions.

Though I saw applicants trying to gain access to better lives with more opportunities, the interviewers probably saw potential terrorists or drains on the social safety net trying to con the immigration system. Watching my countrymen denied access to America, I was convinced that I’d probably forgotten an essential document in my application and would be publicly yelled at just like the others.

Fortunately, my anxiety was unfounded, and my interview was short and smooth. But the cases of the women in front of me are representative of some of the problems that the new immigration bill seeks to address: The Senate bill contains new restrictions on work visas for family members, and measures to crack down on academic institutions that serve as a front for people to enter on student visas before moving to full-time employment.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

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