Nigerian applicants to US varsities groan over visa appointment hurdles

Nigerian students, who have got admission into American universities for August to September intakes, have expressed fears that they may not be able to fulfil their ambition of studying abroad over failure to successfully book visa interview appointments at the United States embassy and consulate in the country.

The applicants, in a chat with our correspondent, said they had applied for admission for graduate and post-graduate studies into various institutions in the US earlier this year, after which they were given admission for the spring and fall admission windows. They were thereafter provided with I-20 forms, which enabled them to book an interview appointment.

However, securing interview dates after paying the necessary fee required by the US consulate has been a serious hurdle.

While the respective institutions they applied to are expected to resume lectures between the month of August and September, the applicants are yet to secure dates for their visa interviews. The lucky ones were given interview dates that exceeded their resumption dates.

The distraught applicants who spoke to The PUNCH expressed their displeasure over the development, as they claimed to have spent a lot of money before getting to the interview stage.

An applicant who gave his name simply as Francis, said, “I started the process earlier this year with the hope that it should be concluded in the next three to four months but, to my surprise, the embassy did not provide a date for interview. They usually make emergency provisions for students who need to resume before our resumption dates, but now the embassy is doing nothing to resolve the issues, which means that there are no emergency dates for us to go for appointments to be interviewed.  This I-20 I am holding expires after the school resumes and it costs so much to get another I-20, which is another admission letter after deferring this current one. I think the US embassy needs to do something about this considering the money I have spent on this process.”

Another applicant, one Tunde, noted that his visa interview date was slated for December but he’s supposed to resume studies at his American school in August. He described the situation as an automatic cancellation of his admission.

He said, “My resumption date is August 15 and they decided to schedule my interview for November. That is like an automatic cancellation when they already told my agent not to book 60 days before resumption. We are not saying that you should give everybody a visa, but try to release the appointment dates. It is a conspiracy against us because they feel the Academic Staff Union of Universities (in Nigeria) is on strike and every student wants to leave the country. I have spent close to N1 million. My parents are disappointed but hopeful that everything will be sorted because it is for my betterment that they decided that I should go abroad.”

Our correspondent learnt that the embassy on May 22 initiated a policy, instructing prospective visa applicants to book appointments 60 days prior to the resumption date of school admitted into. The period allows students to book an emergency appointment.

Stephen, who is also an applicant, said, “The laws for appointment as of last year stated that you can book an emergency appointment 120 days before the actual resumption date. But this year, the US embassy came up with a policy that you can only book the emergency appointment two months before, which is 60 days before your resumption. And to our greatest surprise, most of us are expected to resume in August, which means two months starts in June. We booked the appointment and the date given to us is between October and November. This means I have to defer admission and have to seek another I-20. So all we are asking for is a nearer date before our school resumption.  Giving me a date after my resumption is no longer an emergency appointment, and the same embassy will not accept an expired I-20. An emergency appointment does not take more than two weeks before, but now it takes more than four months.”

An educational consultant, Ayeni Oluyemi, who assists applicants to process applications to US universities, complained that the development has left the applicants stranded.

He said, “The students have spent a lot and most of these documents have expiry dates. The visa fee expires in one year. The sevis fee expires in two years, while the i-20 expires the day the school…

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