With travel bans in place and visa interview slots yet to reopen, thousands of students vying for abroad study face an uncertain future

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: On June 6, Shrinkhala Khatiwada, an architect and winner of a popular beauty pageant, tweeted a message addressed to the United States Embassy in Nepal. The message was a request to the embassy to open interview slots for F-1 visa applicants and diversity visa winners. Khatiwada was accepted to the US-based Harvard University Graduate School of Design to pursue a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. She expressed concern that if the interview slots remained closed, F-1 visa applicants and DV winners would lose their scholarships or acceptances if they fail to arrive this fall.

“It is unfair that the consulates in other countries in South Asia should be open while the US consulate in Kathmandu remains closed,” Khatiwada wrote. “The uncertainty of getting a visa has taken a toll on all of us, and we don’t believe we should be obligated to leave our future to chance.”

Over one month since Khatiwada’s letter, the interview slots remain closed. This has left thousands of students aspiring to move abroad for further studies in a lurch. Even those who have already acquired acceptance letters from the universities have not been able to proceed due to travel restrictions, and lockdowns.

Noting this, Shreya Paudel, a scholar at Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EMJMDs), has started a petition to the council of the European Union and nine other concerned authorities.

“As most European Universities prepare to go back to in-person learning in 2021, we are likely to miss enrollment to our courses and lose the attached scholarships—most of which are set to begin around August-end and September—without any provision of deferring the scholarship,” reads her petition.

The petition demands that the Council of European Union and the Delegations of European Union to facilitate the exemption of students from the travel ban, to urge embassies and consulates to prioritize and expedite visa processing for study purposes, and to allow vaccinated students to enter the European Countries.

There are many others like Paudel who are going through similar situations. Similarly, students who had returned home during the vacation are also stuck in Nepal.

Some students who aspire to study in the USA have initiated a visa process from US Embassy India as the US Embassy in Nepal has not resumed visa interviews. According to the Embassy’s website, it has started processing a limited number of student visas. 

“We do not yet know when we will be able to further resume routine visa services and open additional visa appointments,” a notice at the embassy’s website reads. “As soon as it is determined safe to return to regular visa processing, we will do so.”

Thousands of students aspiring to pursue their studies abroad are left in a lurch. Even those who have already acquired acceptance letters from the universities have not been able to proceed due to travel restrictions, and lockdowns.

Some of the most popular higher education destinations for Nepali are the USA, UK, China, Canada, Germany, Australia, and other European countries.

Meanwhile, many Nepali students who were evacuated from China last year are still restricted to return back and continue their studies. International students stuck in their homeland have started different online campaigns to pressurize China’s government. Nepali students have also initiated the online campaign through Twitter.

On Friday, July 2, they wrote an open letter to President of China Xi Jinping and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli asking them to allow to continue their studies in China.

The letter requests concerned authorities to take measures on their behalf and to initiate a discussion with the Chinese government to facilitate their return.

“Sixteen months have passed since and we have no return date,” reads the letter. “Many of us have majors that require practical classes for graduation and scholarships that need annual renewal. Our inability to return keeps us from graduating and disables us from following our career paths.”