The Biden Bounce: US Student Visa Applications From Pakistan Jump 37% in 2021

Student visa applications from Pakistan have jumped 37% this year. Overall, the number of international student applicants has increased by about 9% this year from last year, according to data from the Common App, as of January 22, 2021. Most of the top “sending” countries are showing increases, with the notable exception of China, the leading source of international students. But that decrease has been more than offset by substantial increases from countries like India, Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Brazil, according to a report in Forbes magazine.

Pakistani F-1 Students in the United States. Source: Open Door

Although applications from China are down by 18% from last year, that loss is more than offset by large increases in applicants from several other countries; including India (+28%), Canada (+22%), Nigeria (+12%), Pakistan (+37%), the United Kingdom (+23%), and Brazil (+41%), according to Forbes. American colleges and universities have welcomed the trend. 43% of educational institutions are reporting an increase in their international student applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

The bounce is being attributed to declining COVID cases and the anticipation of the Biden Administration's liberal visa policy. President Joseph R. Biden has signaled his welcoming attitude toward foreign arrivals by signing a number of executive orders ranging from the revocation of Trump's "Muslim ban" to reinstatement of DACA protection.  

In the last pre-COVID academic year 2018-19, nearly 2,000 new F-1 students arrived in the United States from Pakistan, making it the 25th largest sending country. In the same academic year, China was the top sending country with nearly 100,000 new students enrolling in American universities. India was second with about 43,000 students. 

There were 7,939 Pakistani students studying on F-1 visa in the United States, ranking the country as the 22nd among countries sending students to the United States. China topped with nearly 370,000 international students in the United States while India was second with just over 200,000 students. 

Earlier in 2021,  representatives from 13 top US universities visited Pakistan and met thousands of Pakistani students at college fairs in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi as part of EducationUSA’s 16th South Asia Tour.  They shared valuable information about their institutions’ academic programs, campus life, financial aid options, and application procedures, according to the US Embassy in Pakistan.  

Since 2005, Pakistan’s Fulbright Program is the world’s largest in terms of financial contribution from the U.S. Government. The Government of Pakistan, through the Higher Education Commission (HEC), has also provided generous support. Every year approximately 100 Pakistanis begin master’s programs, and another 50 begin PhD studies on Fulbright scholarships at leading U.S. universities. 


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