Covid 19: Impact on International Student Mobility to the US

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has gone topsy-turvy, affecting all the major sectors, including education. Due to the unprecedented lockdown of the Higher Educational Institutions (HEI’s), there has been a major loss of resources for the colleges in the times to come. The impact of the coronavirus on the education sector is such that the international students are taking aback from seeking admission to HEI abroad. Due to the decline in the student count, the financially dependent institutions will face global mobility. Despite the lease on the lockdown, the question is whether or not international students will feel safe in living in a foreign country that might be the center of the pandemic. In this blog, we have compiled the pandemic impact on international student mobility to the U.S.


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Causes of the Decline in International Student Mobility 

Alongside the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is political tension between China, the highest students sending country, and the rest of the world. Further, for protection sakes, visa regulations shall take place as well, posing problems for international students to reach the U.S. for their studies. Complimentary to that, the U.S. senators released a statement threatening HEIs. According to them, “jobs that would otherwise go to unemployed Americans as our economy recovers.” In turn, they urged the government to suspend the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to issue H-1B visas for international students in most Asian countries. 


But, the relief in this decreased mobility is the fact amidst the pandemic as well; almost 67% of students are still interested in studying stateside. (Report by WES). Also, the rate of admissions of international students to the HEIs in the U.S. solely depends on how long the pandemic continues. To compensate for the loss, the education leaders are taking up resolutions, which will be in effect as the pandemic stops. According to NAFSA, “three U.S. jobs are created or supported for every seven enrolled international students in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance.”

What are the Changes in the Study Plans of Mobile Students?

Since the pandemic is temporary and will certainly find an escape soon, mobile students are changing and re-creating their study plans. As per the survey, almost 53% of students who intended to study in the U.S. pre-pandemic are doubtful for their choice. But, 23% are certain about studying in the U.S., which is a relief to the HEIs.

Easy Immigration 

Another reason for the mobility of international students to the U.S. is the exemptions from other countries. For instance, countries like Australia and NewZealand are exempting the lockdown situation in effect from July. So, these countries are serving the purpose better for making the admission process of international students easier and reliable. 


With the increased duration of the pandemic, harsh immigration restrictions have been imposed on the students. Also, as per another survey by WES, “almost 50% of students feared the effect of coronavirus in impacting the openness of the U.S. society for the international students.” Another 20% of the students confessed that they’re more likely to study in their home country to escape the terror of the virus. 

Economic Concerns

Along with the travel restrictions and safety concerns, economic concerns remain another significant point in mobile students. Since international education is expensive for the non-native students despite the financial aid, they’re rejecting the idea of studying abroad in the U.S. 


As per another data by WES, “77% of prospective students surveyed by expect economic conditions in their home country to be negatively affected by the pandemic, while 43% fear that they will no longer be able to afford to study in the United States.” 

Postponement of Tests

Another cause for the disrupted international student mobility to the U.S. is the postponement of the tests like SAT or TOEFL. Also, there is the suspension of mail services as well due to the pandemic, which is, in turn affecting the student’s study abroad plans. In past situations as well, the rate of admission declined due to pandemic and depressions. Then, lower-middle-income countries face the main constraint in reaching out to high-cost study destinations. 

Anticipated Change in Enrollment 2019-20 to 2020-21

Due to the change in the educational outlook amidst the pandemic, there has been a significant change in the enrollment rate of international students in comparison to the last year. Most HEIs consider 64% of the international student mobility suspension due to travel restrictions, the other 70% is certain that the international students won’t receive a visa. So, to compensate for the students’ loss, most HEI will increase the “backyard recruitment” of the international students in the U.S. 

Is Online Education an Alternative For the Regular Studies?

To continue imparting education, most universities are taking up online education as an alternative to the regular studies amidst the pandemic. Following up with this change, almost 7% of the HEIs in the U.S. are taking up online learning till the Fall semester. As per a recent survey, “the Institute of International Education stated that they would provide online options for international students in the fall.”

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As per the survey conducted by WES, almost 32% of international students would continue their studies online while the other 30% remain undecided about it. Whereas, around 33% of students in the U.S. polled in May said, “they would deter or cancel their fall semesters if schools go online.” However, it can’t be undenied, how online education is helping students amidst the pandemic. Nevertheless, distance education is not beneficiating a lot of students who face geographical or technical glitches. So, the U.S. government must take effective measures to deal with the continuous influx of international students to the U.S.