More Than Half of Students From Africa Who Want to Study in the U.S. Are Denied Visas

A new report from the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration finds that students from Africa seeking visas to come to the United States are far more likely to have their applications denied than students from other regions of the world. The alliance is a group of American college and university leaders dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses, and communities. The alliance supports policies that create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students on U.S. campuses.

The report found that student visa denials have increased significantly in the past eight years. In 2015, higher rates of visa denials were primarily clustered in Africa (with the exception of South Africa), South Asia, and parts of the Middle East. By 2022, 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.

In 2015, Africa had a visa denial rate of 44 percent as compared with 30 percent for students from Asia, and 8 percent from Europe. By 2022, the visa denial rate for African students increased to 54 percent, compared to 36 percent for Asian students and 9 percent for European students.

Within Africa, there were huge differences in visa denial rates. Only 16 percent of students in southern Africa were denied visas. But 71 percent of the students from West Africa and 61 percent of students from Central Africa were denied visas.

“There is much hand-wringing about why the U.S. is not attracting more international students and yet – as our new and first-ever analysis shows – there is global talent that is eager and poised to study and succeed in the U.S., yet is turned away,” said Rajika Bhandari, senior advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance. “International students today overcome many hurdles to study in the U.S., but a visa represents the ultimate barrier to entry that can thwart the dreams and potential of these students while also shortchanging U.S. institutions, the workforce, and our economy. Everybody loses when a well-qualified student is denied a visa.”

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