Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world were closing borders and increasing controls over foreigners within them. Throughout Europe and the United States, the mass movements of migrants from war-torn regions or in search of better economic conditions provoked reactions and closures that led to restrictions on movement and closer monitoring of identities and credentials, especially for non-citizens. As the pandemic spread globally, those closures, lockdowns and curtailments of free movements for foreigners have increased. We’ll consider ways in which governments and educational institutions have been cracking down on foreign students.
- Governments and institutions requiring certified translations of documentation
The last decade has seen a massive increase in the amount of documentation required to cross borders and on the ability of foreigners to enter the educational and other institutions of a nation not their own. Visas now are harder to come by, restricted both in terms of numbers and in terms of the difficulty to obtain them. In addition, foreign language documents must be accompanied by certified translations, compelling applicants for visas or foreign educational programs to pay for often pricey certified translation services. The costs of translation certification can represent a significant deterrent which may discourage applications altogether.
The reasons for requiring certification of document translation are easily justified by the institutions themselves, backed by government policies on immigration and movement of foreigners. For sure, educational visas have long been a loophole that have been used to enter foreign countries and secure otherwise difficult to obtain visas. In many cases, educational visas have served as the easiest way for foreigners to gain entry to a country, even if their real intention is not to study but work. A recognized translation authority must verify the authenticity of a diploma or certificate. This adds a hurdle for the would-be applicant for a visa or for entry into an educational program.
An additional loophole for foreign applicants’ education has been the ability to fake employment credentials, claiming or exaggerating work experience. Thousands of fraudulent student visas have been uncovered. A particular vulnerability has been revealed in the F1 visa program, which allows foreign students to remain in the United States to work after they obtain their degrees. In some cases, the educational institutions facilitated this deception by accepting bogus documentation.
Requiring certified translations will deter fraudulent uses. And the requirements of certified translation can easily be solved by certified translation services, which verifies the authenticity and originality of translated documents by expert linguists from accredited authorities. The extra expense of certified translation services shifts the burden onto the student visa seeker, but it also reduces the likelihood of fraud on the part of sketchy institutions.
- Stringent medical requirements and strict quarantines keeping foreigners out
The global pandemic has brought the travel and tourism industry to a virtual standstill. But it has also put a damper on foreign exchange educational programs. In addition to the additional documents and certified translations required of foreign students, many countries have imposed medical requirements which serve to deter academics from moving between countries.
Thailand was the first country after China to record a COVID-19 infection, but the southeast Asian “land of smiles” was quick to limit the spread of the outbreak by slamming shut its external borders, canceling visas, and basically placing a “no foreigners admitted” sign on its frontiers. The move was successful in limiting the viral spread, but it also had a devastating effect on a tourism industry that annually was greeting nearly forty million visitors.
Less reported but also profoundly affected were Thai educational institutions, which typically earned a substantial portion of their income from foreign students, many from the Middle East, Africa, and neighboring nations. All entrants to the nations were required to undergo a draconian 16-day quarantine, something only a small trickle of tourists and students have been willing to endure. Only Hong Kong, with a 21-day quarantine, is stricter.
- As education goes online, entry denials and deportations of students are on the rise
In July 2020, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency issued strict new rules to the country’s education institutions with online-only programs. The institutions were charged with informing students, either still in their home countries or already in the US, that they will be deported or denied entry unless they can secure admission at a program with in-person classes. Potentially this could affect many if not most of international students, representing about 5.5% of the nation’s student body.
This policy poses a problem not only for students but for educational institutions as well. Foreign students pay tuition on average three times greater than American students. In 2018, they accounted for some $45 billion income for US colleges and universities, effectively subsidizing the tuition of domestic students. It remains to be seen how the Biden administration’s policies will deal with the issue, though there are some promising signs.
The bottom line is that 2021 promises to be another trying year for foreign students across the world. It remains to be seen whether the restrictions on educational pursuits will prove additional side effects of the global pandemic and draconian government controls.