US on Track to Issue Most Student Visas Since 2016

U.S. State Department officials and a recent report by ApplyBoard, a Canadian-based international student recruitment platform, indicate the United States is set to issue the most student visas in a year since fiscal 2016.

The tally of visas issued in fiscal 2023 has passed 392,000 to date. In fiscal 2016, a total 471,728 F1 visas were issued.

It could be close: Compared to fiscal 2022 — October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022 — more than 411,131 international student visas were issued, including F1, according to the State Department.

An F1 visa is for those attending an academic program or seeking a full-time degree at a U.S. institution.

In order to pass fiscal 2022, the U.S. will have to issue more than 40,000 international visas before the end of September.

“Facilitating the ability of foreign students and academic exchange visitors to study at U.S. universities and colleges is a priority,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA by email. “We are on track to issue the most student visas in a year since [fiscal year] 2016.

“While the US has a long way to go before rivaling its high mark of over 644,000 student visas issued in FY2015, these numbers inspire confidence that long-term, sustainable growth is ahead,” ApplyBoard’s July 18th report states.

Last September, the Institute of International Education released its annual study showing that international enrollment had largely recovered from the steep drop it took during the pandemic, and U.S. colleges were seeing an increase in applications for admission after significantly fewer new international student enrollments in 2020 and 2021.


According to ApplyBoard, the six countries the saw the largest percentage increases in student visas issued from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2022 were Asian. Uzbekistan is at the top of this list for the first time, while Nepal, Bangladesh, and Vietnam show continued growth in visa issuance.

“All four countries hit 25-year highs in student visas issued,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, more African students were awarded F1 visas in 2022 than ever before, the report said. Nigeria and Ghana were issued the most student visas in their histories in 2022.

According to the State Department records, the number of visas issued to students from Africa in fiscal 2022 surpassed 30,700. This marked a significant increase compared with 21,037 visas issued in fiscal 2018, followed by 20,165 in fiscal 2019, a notable dip to 7,333 because of the pandemic in 2020, and then a rebound to 23,229 in fiscal 2021.

According to the 2022 Open Doors report and State Department data, the top two countries are China and India, which together represent the majority of all international students in the United States, or about 52%.

In 2022, China remained the top country, with 290,086 students on U.S. campuses, a decrease of 9% year-over-year. That same year, India had the second most international students, with about 200,000, an increase of 19% year-over-year.

“In fiscal year 2022, our Embassy and Consulates in India broke the all-time record for most student and exchange visitor visas issued in a year, issuing more than 125,000 [new] visas. India now is the second largest origin country for U.S. international students,” according to State.

Approval rate

The approval rate for nonimmigrant student visa applicants also hit a 10-year high in fiscal 2022.

“In [fiscal year] 2022, worldwide, we issued 411,131 F1 visas and refused 220,676 F1 visas,” the State Department spokesperson told VOA. “In [fiscal] 2021, worldwide, we issued 357,839 F1 visas.”

ApplyBoard called the data “overwhelmingly good” in its analysis.

“The new F1 visa data should be music to the ears of international recruitment offices around the United States,” said ApplyBoard’s report.

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