U.S. suspends visa services worldwide, prompts international student worry

The suspension of visa services worldwide will likely make it more difficult for international students to replace or acquire visas to attend the University.

A man walks his dog along a quiet Washington Avenue bridge on Saturday, March 21.

Kamaan Richards

A man walks his dog along a quiet Washington Avenue bridge on Saturday, March 21.

Jiang Li

With the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. continuing to escalate, University of Minnesota computer science junior Chen Liu, who planned to go back to China this summer, said one problem keeps bothering him — his visa will expire in July, and he may not be able to re-enter the U.S. for his fall semester classes.

The U.S. suspended visa services worldwide on Wednesday due to the escalation of the pandemic, and many University international students who plan to go back to their home countries are worried about their expiring visas. The suspension of visa services worldwide makes it more difficult and uncertain for international students to replace or acquire visas to attend the University.

Embassies and consulates in multiple countries canceled routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments for the foreseeable future. The U.S. missions in countries, such as South Korea, South Africa, Germany and Spain announced that they were either stopping or reducing services, according to Reuters.

The Embassies are unable to provide a specific date to resume routine visa services, according to Reuters.

The University’s International Student and Scholar Services said it is monitoring the issue.

“Staff in ISSS know that the reduction of visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates has been a concern for current and incoming international students and scholars,” said Barbara Kappler, assistant dean of ISSS, in a statement. “We are working hard to keep students and scholars informed as the situation changes.” 

University freshman Yunwei Huang, who said she will go back to China on Saturday, planned to apply for a new visa this summer since her visa will expire next April. But now she is looking for another time.

As of 2018-19, there were almost 6,000 international students on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, with more than 5,500 students holding academic visas, according to data from International Student and Scholar Services.

University statistics sophomore Ella Xiong was planning to go back to get a new visa after she lost her passport at the end of last year, but now, she said she may have to stay in the U.S. for the whole summer.

ISSS encourages students to continue to check embassy and consulate websites for updates and contact ISSS if they have specific concerns.