With a surging number of international students in the U.S. campuses, the Obama administration on Monday highlighted its efforts to boost overseas enrollment by accelerating the process of student visa granting.
"The Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs gives student visa appointments special priority," the State Department said in a statement as it kicked off the International Education Week. "All U.S. embassies and consulates expedite visa processing for foreign students to ensure qualified students are able to begin their academic program on time."
Foreign students have long complained about the complexity and difficulty in applying for a U.S. visa. To address the concern, the department said it has taken steps to shorten the maximum wait for a student visa appointment to less than 15 days. Foreign students can apply for their visas up to 120 days before their academic programs begin, it added.
The move comes as the number of foreign students in the U.S. rose more than 30 percent over the last decade, according to a new annual report.
The number of international students attending U.S. colleges and universities rose by 5 percent to a record high of 723,277 during the 2010/11 academic year, led by a sharp increase in the number of Chinese students, according to the Open Doors report published by the Institute of International Education.
During a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. on Monday, a senior State Department official stressed the tremendous intellectual, social, and economic benefits foreign students bring to the U.S..
Foreign students enrich the U.S. universities by exposing them with new ideas and new way of thinking, said Adam Ereli, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
Educational exchange also helps establish and consolidate bonds between the U.S. and other countries by promoting mutual understanding, he added. In addition, foreign enrollment also serves as an important boost to the U.S. economy with billions of dollars in education-related revenue.