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CSU supports students through visa process post-COVID

CSUs+Office+of+International+Programs+is+home+to+numerous+opportunities+for+students+to+work%2C+study+and+travel+abroad.+%28Davis+Bonner+%7C+Collegian%29
CSU’s Office of International Programs is home to numerous opportunities for students to work, study and travel abroad. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Colorado State University’s International Student and Scholar Services on campus provides incoming international students with resources to navigate both the visa application and interview processes to study in the U.S.

Any international student coming to CSU must be prepared for an interview that might encompass 25-30 questions. However, Director of ISSS at the Office of International Programs Greg Wymer said that typically, students are only asked two or three of those questions.

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“We want to prepare them for that and really kind of help them from that standpoint,” Wymer said. “The visa interview process is really nerve-wracking for incoming students. They’re very nervous about it — even though they’ve been admitted to a university, and they have the documentation that they can apply for a visa.”

The most important thing considered during the immigration process is intent, Wymer said. If a student is considered an F-1 or J-1 student, their visa intent must only be to study or participate in a work-based program, meaning that following its completion, they must return home. Those students receive different counseling on the immigration process and must complete different documents.

“(Visa officials) are interviewing these students, and the students are nervous because they’re like, ‘OK, what if I don’t get it?’ — you know, ‘What’s my next plan?’ — that kind of thing,” Wymer said. “We really just try to talk them through what to anticipate. The visa interview process is literally three minutes at most because visa consulate officers have to get through 20 applicants in an hour, so really, they’re limited to three minutes.”

CSU’s ISSS hosts workshops multiple times a semester to prepare students for the interview process, and Wymer said that the workshops emphasize the importance of smiling during the interviews.

“We really try to encourage them: ‘Hey, be calm, be polite,’ that kind of thing,” Wymer said. “Smile, if you have a wonderful smile. In some countries, it’s not culturally acceptable to smile in those kinds of situations, (and) I tell them it is with the U.S. consulate officers. It really helps them kind of see that you’re genuine.”

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, international student enrollment numbers nationwide saw a period of decreased enrollment.

A decrease in international student enrollment began in 2016. When the pandemic hit, CSU had 2,400 international students, and following the pandemic, that number dipped to 1,400, Wymer said. This year, CSU has around 1,850 international students, and the enrollment numbers are rising, Wymer said.

“The actual process hasn’t really changed from pre-COVID to mid-COVID to now post-COVID,” Wymer said. “The process in terms of how they apply (and) so on and so forth has remained exactly the same. It’s just been the ability for them to actually get interviews (that has been difficult).”

Wymer recently attended a National Association of Foreign Student Advisers conference in October and learned that for the fiscal year 2022, the United States Department of State issued more than 581,000 student visas, the most since fiscal year 2017.

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“They’ve noticed that they need to help universities,” Wymer said. “It is trending upward. They are prioritizing student visa appointments over other just nonstudents, like visitor visas.”

Wymer also said there has been an extension put in place for the student interview waiver program, meaning that if students are attempting to obtain another visa, they do not have to complete an interview.

“(CSU) is being proactive on preparing our students from a visa standpoint, (and) those pre-arrival workshops have been key,” Wymer said. “During International Education Week, we were handing out cookies on The Plaza, and I had a couple international students come up to me and really express their gratitude and say how thankful they were for the pre-arrival workshops.”

For Wymer, the ISSS’s motto, “You are welcome here,” is very important to be welcoming new students.

“When they said that, it wasn’t surprising because, as we give them kind of an idea of what to anticipate during that interview process, that gives them the ability to, again, take a deep breath, smile and approach with confidence, knowing that they’ve been admitted to a Division I research-focused, intense institution,” Wymer said. “I tell them during that interview process, ‘Be confident — not overconfident — but be confident because you have been admitted. You are fully qualified to attend Colorado State University. So go in with some confidence.'”

Wymer emphasized the welcome he wanted to give CSU international students.

“You are welcome here,” Wymer said. “(CSU) gives them an ability to not only see our smiling faces during these pre-arrival workshops, but then they start to kind of feel a sense of belonging. And then when they arrive, they can see those same smiling faces and know, ‘Hey, you know what? At Colorado State University, these people are genuine. They care about me.'”

Reach Allie Seibel at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @allie_seibel_

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About the Contributor
Allie Seibel, Editor in Chief
Allie Seibel is the editor in chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, a role she loves more and more with each day. Previously the news editor and news director of The Collegian, Seibel has a background in news, but she’s excited to branch out and experience every facet of content this and following years. Seibel is a sophomore journalism and media communications major minoring in business administration and legal studies. She is a student in the Honors Program and is also an honors ambassador and honors peer mentor. She also is a satellite imagery writer for the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Seibel is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and loves how The Collegian has gotten her acquainted with Fort Collins and CSU. When she’s not writing, reporting or in class, you can always find her with a book, cross-stitching, planning where to travel to next, trying out a new recipe or listening to Taylor Swift. Seibel is incredibly proud of The Collegian’s past and understands the task of safeguarding its future. She’s committed to The Collegian’s brand as an alt-weekly newspaper and will continue to advance its status as a strong online publication while preserving the integrity and tradition of the print paper. Seibel is excited to begin a multi-year relationship with readers at the helm of the paper and cannot wait to see how the paper continues to grow. Through initiatives like the new science desk and letting each individual desk shine, Seibel is committed to furthering The Collegian and Rocky Mountain Student Media over the next few years.

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