Planning with confidence in the COVID-19 era: a look at visa requirements

The coronavirus has turned organizations everywhere upside down, and colleges and universities are no exception. For students, families, and institutions planning for the upcoming academic year, uncertainties and obstacles present significant challenges.

Flywire has been solving complex payment problems for students and education institutions since 2011. In the COVID-19 era, after consulting with higher education leaders, industry partners, and both domestic and international student communities, we have identified key policies and best practices to help make 2020/2021 student enrollment and retention easier for all concerned. Critical topics include:

  • Driving enrollments and initial payments
  • Increasing affordability with payment plans
  • Addressing visa requirements
  • Ensuring a seamless payment process

In this blog, we will share Flywire’s findings and recommendations for helping students address visa requirements.

Helping students navigate visa issues amid COVID-19

International students contribute significantly to the academic, financial, and cultural robustness of your institution. But as the fall 2020 semester approaches, uncertainties about visa requirements are generating significant concerns. Representatives and administrators can be enormously helpful to your international students by providing information on visa availability as well as updates on regulations being extended by governments globally.

Specifically, it would be useful for your students to have guidance on the following:

  • Can the student secure the necessary visa in time to start their intended program of study?
  • For those with visas, will potential study disruptions put their visa status at risk?
  • For those countries where studies can lead to extended post-study visas, are visa extensions still available?

Framework for popular study abroad destinations

With many members of the Flywire team possessing backgrounds and connections in academia and education, we were able to gather student visa data for several leading international study destinations, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The framework we’ve devised can also be applied to other countries based on local requirements and visa policies.

Planning with confidence in the COVID-19 era: a look at visa requirements

Following are the report’s top-line recommendations for what to communicate to international students planning to study at your school in the fall:

What US institutions should tell students

  • The US visa issuance process has always prioritized student access, and we expect they will adapt their processes to ensure visa processing resumes as quickly as possible
  • Participation in all online courses – whether physically outside or inside the US – will count toward a student’s full course of study requirement, ensuring they will maintain active status in SEVIS
  • US educational institutions are working together to ensure that the US government is aware of the challenges associated with not being able to start the semester as planned

What UK institutions should tell students

  • Should UKVCAS visa processing not resume in an appropriate time frame, institutions and students may consider moving their studies to an online format, where the student is able to participate from their home country, and a Tier 4 visa is not required
  • Tier 4 students will not be in breach of their visa terms if they participate in online courses inside or outside of the UK
  • The Home Office will extend student immigration permission without students having to submit a new application or pay a fee

What Canadian institutions should tell students

  • Canada is still welcoming international students who have a valid Student Visa dated up until March 13th into the country, but it’s important to comply with the mandatory health procedures
  • Students whose permits are due to expire should apply online to extend their stay in Canada
  • In the event that classes are offered in an online-only format, student eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program will not be affected

What Australian institutions should tell students

  • Only urgent visas are currently being prioritized, and students are encouraged to only lodge an application when they are confident they can satisfy requirements
  • TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency) and ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority) have announced flexibility in the mode of education delivery during COVID-19 and are allowing foreign students to continue their courses and participate online, within or outside Australia
  • It is not possible to extend a student visa, so students need to apply for a new visa six weeks before their current visa expires

Review the complete report

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a range of uncertainties and obstacles that present significant challenges to schools, students, and families planning for the 2020-2021 academic year. Review the complete report to find out more about industry insights regarding key policies and best practices that will help education stakeholders plan with confidence in an effort to retain and drive student enrollment.

Sign the SOS #SaveOverseasStudies petition

As a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19, the ability for international students to study overseas is in jeopardy. Uncertainty around visa and immigration policies suggests that students will have greater difficulty obtaining access to travel into the country when in-person classes resume.

With millions of international students studying overseas annually, the need to continue to grant and extend student visas is critical for education institutions and overall economy. Sign the SOS petition to #SaveOverseasStudies and commit your support for international students to continue to travel and study today!