Disproportionate F-1 Visa Denials Persist for African and Other Students from the Global South

For Immediate Release: July 8, 2024
Contact: Jason Koh,

Disproportionate F-1 Visa Denials Persist for African and Other Students from the Global South

Washington D.C. – Nearly one year after the release of the groundbreaking report, “The Interview of a Lifetime: An Analysis of Visa Denials and International Student Flows to the U.S.,” by the Presidents’ Alliance and Shorelight, students from the Global South continue to experience high visa denial rates to U.S. colleges and universities. The latest findings in our updated report confirm persistent disparities in F-1 visa denial rates across continents, particularly those from Africa.

“Our latest analysis shows that eager, talented students are still being turned away, and that this continues to affect U.S. higher education and our institutions,” said Rajika Bhandari, Senior Advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance. “These visa denials hinder the dreams of these students and can have sizable impacts on U.S. higher education institutions, the workforce, and the economy. Everyone loses when a qualified student is denied a visa.”

In 2023, nations that saw denial rate increases of 10% or higher were all located in Asia and Africa. The African subcontinent saw the highest denial rate (averaging 57% with some differences by sub-region). When excluding outlier subregions like Southern Africa (where denial rates hover around 19%), the denial rate for remaining African regions rises to 61%.

Shelley Landry, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Shorelight, stated, “The new data highlight the importance of enhancing U.S. visa policies to attract talented international students who would enrich our classrooms, communities, and economy. The high rate of visa denials in Africa and the Global South is concerning, as it contributes to a decline in the share of international students choosing to study in the U.S. compared to other global destinations. With the growing demand for international talent, particularly in these regions, it is crucial to address these challenges.”

Since the initial report’s release last year, several positive developments have occurred, including the State Department engaging with the report’s findings to address high-demand challenges and members of Congress actively seeking to ensure more predictability, transparency, and equity in visa issuance. However, with the increase in visa denial rates for students from certain regions of the Global South, especially African students, this issue remains prevalent and requires immediate attention.

“These updated findings show a continuing pattern of disparate outcomes, and we are eager to work with the higher education community and the government to address the root causes,” said Jill Welch, Senior Policy Advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance and senior consultant to the U.S. for Success Coalition, where both the Presidents’ Alliance and Shorelight are founding members. “The U.S. government, and the [Biden] Administration in particular, has made some important improvements in visa processing; now we need to build on those improvements to ensure greater equity so that the U.S. can benefit from the potential of these students from the Global South, and the African continent in particular. The inability to secure a visa should never stand in the way of qualified students being able to pursue a U.S. educational degree.”



The nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings college and university presidents and chancellors together on the immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities and nation. We work to support undocumented, international and refugee students, and advance forward-looking immigration policies and practices at the federal level, in our states, and across our college campuses. The Alliance is composed of 550+ college and university presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 42 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.


Founded in 2013, Shorelight works with universities across the U.S. to create innovative programs that deliver comprehensive educational services to international students. Our platform connects international students, universities, and service providers to drive student enrollment and performance at scale. We do this so that a more globally diverse population can lead and prosper for generations to come. Together, we help educate the world.