Higher education: Visa denials a myth for drop in Pakistani students in US

Published: April 12, 2012
Representatives from universities SUNY Buffalo, Valparaiso University and University of Northern Iowa gathered at an education fair at the Prometric Centre. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Representatives from universities SUNY Buffalo, Valparaiso University and University of Northern Iowa gathered at an education fair at the Prometric Centre. PHOTO: EXPRESS


It is a myth that fewer Pakistani students went to university in America because of more post-9/11 visa denials. It has simply happened because more higher education institutions opened at home.

The number of Pakistani students in the US dropped from over 8,500 in 2001 to about 5,000 in 2012. “In the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the number of higher education institutes in Pakistan. This encourages many students to study in the country and not apply abroad,” explained Shazia Khan, who deals with the Fulbright outreach programme.

“The United States has always been eager to increase opportunities for Pakistani students,” she told The Express Tribune at the US educational fair organised by the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan on Tuesday. The foundation is an advisory body that helps Pakistani students secure the best possible opportunities for higher education in the US.

The fair brought together Pakistani students, parents and working professionals and gave them a chance to meet representatives from three American universities.

The representatives came from the University of Northern Iowa, Valparaiso University and the University at Buffalo and the State University of New York. They had set up desks at the Prometric Centre. In particular, many engineering students showed up.

A former Fulbright scholar Muhammad Bilal Lakhani (not The Express Tribune’s publisher) was also there to help potential candidates increase their chances of being accepted. “In the US they believe in a person and not in numbers,” he said while talking to the students. “While applying for the Fulbright, you will have a good chance of being considered if you build a logical case around your personal statement – your beliefs, endeavors, values and aspirations.”

A civil engineering student from Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, Babar Ali Shaikh, said that he wanted to transfer his credit hours to Valparaiso University because in his opinion Pakistan engineering courses were not up-to-date. Since he cannot finance his education, he was thinking about applying for a scholarship.

The US academic representatives appeared pleasantly surprised with their experience in Pakistan. “Pakistani students are eager and smart and would make a welcome addition to any US college or university,” said Kristi Marchesani, the assistant director of international admissions at the University of Northern Iowa. The representative of the Valparaiso University Moninder ‘Holly’ Singh told The Express Tribune that he enjoyed the one-on-one interaction with the students and sincerely hoped to see Pakistani students on campus.

According to Shazia Khan, the US embassy was still providing Pakistani students the opportunity to study abroad, and many of them were taking them up.

The US cultural affairs attaché, Anthony M Jones, told The Express Tribune that the fair promoted the mission of mutual understanding between the people of Pakistan and the United States through educational and cultural exchange. “Our doors are open to Pakistanis to study in the US,” he said. “We want more Pakistani students to enrich our classrooms and benefit from our world-class universities.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • raja
    Apr 12, 2012 - 6:44AM

    totally crap article 50 million US dollar are speaking them self
    let me make clear
    US has shut down its door to pakistanis in 2001 pakistani did not had any money before. disposable income increase after 2002 and student start going out side for studies 10000 you mentioned in 2001 was rich people and top brain from universities and collages their number even drop these students never had studied in Pakistani institutes for higher education
    US has very strict visa policy many people I know they waited for two years then went to australia, canada, and UK.


  • Sky
    Apr 12, 2012 - 7:02AM

    I believe our students should avail these opportunities as not only do they equip them with education but also open their vision about the outside world.


  • cric fan mani
    Apr 12, 2012 - 7:08AM

    I don’t know which local higher education institutes are attracting people away from applying to US universities but I do know that the visa process is pretty smooth given the mess that our country is. I have heard of very few people around me who have applied with reasonable applications (i-e admission to a good institute with proof of finances and clean personal records) who have had problems. My own experience was without any complaints. And while I’m still learning, I confidently recommend that people go for higher education to good places abroad not just for the skill but equally importantly for learning the true meaning of hard work and ethics. These extremely valuable lessons are not easily found back home.


  • Apr 12, 2012 - 7:56AM

    Universities and other educational institutions that open up in Pakistan cater to the basic level of skills, like Engineering. People go to the US to get an MS!

    If opening of up more educational institutions is the reason, why are Indians still going to the US? More Engineering Colleges have opened up in India, perhaps more than in the entire World put together! Indians don’t want to get an Engineering Degree in the US, but a Masters. Same with Pakistanis. There is no point in doing otherwise.

    US has been really tough on visas nowadays, it get more tougher if you have a beard, or have a Muslim name, or worse if you are a Pakistani!!!!

    On another note, Pakistanis still go to UK and other second tier destinations in droves. If the above reason is true then this shouldn’t have been the case.Recommend

  • Hossein
    Apr 12, 2012 - 7:59AM

    United States is quite lenient to Pakistanis. I am a undergraduate student in Canada for accounting and i can tell you that the average time for Canadian study permit for Pakistanis is around 3 months.
    Whereas for US, it takes a month.


  • Faraz
    Apr 12, 2012 - 9:14AM

    lame point, “more education institutes in Pakistan and fewer students willing to go abroad”. Education institutes have always existed in Pakistan, the well known ones, anyway. Those who have the resources will always go abroad and not study in Pakistan, they won’t care for newer universities opening up with no or little reputation. It is quite simple, most people in Karachi, Lahore want to go to the same universities that have existed for a few decades now! what new universities? that people won’t go to US for (if they can) and actually study in Pakistan, just very absurd.


  • Falcon
    Apr 12, 2012 - 9:36AM

    I think you are looking at the issue in a disjointed manner. Of course, universities are very welcoming because international students and out of state students make up the financial backbone of their universities because of high tuition fees. It is the immigration policies that override this good will. A typical Pakistani visa applicant has to wait for a long time because of security clearance issues. Even after first clearance, moving in and out of US is still a problem. People living here for years go back and get stuck in security clearance and are unable to come back.


  • Bee
    Apr 12, 2012 - 12:48PM


    Local university students are getting jobs, then froeign graduates. LUMS, IBA, NED, TIP, NUST graduates are more prefered by MNC and local companies then froeign qualified graduates. So students prefer local universities.


  • sahib
    Apr 12, 2012 - 1:24PM

    The education in Pakistan or India is just as good as anywhere in the world if students are motivated and interested in gaining knowledge.


  • mrk
    Apr 13, 2012 - 4:18PM

    Marketing 101. Poor country, rich students, milk the cows!


  • Amir Shah
    May 8, 2012 - 12:52AM

    I recently finished my MS and have an engineering job in USA. US universities have almost zero students on student visas from Pakistan now. My US professors told me that the situation was very different 12 years ago. Pakistanis are harassed at US airports and all procedures are applied which are otherwise applied randomly on citizens of other countries. Makes even US citizens of Pakistani origin nervous as they have their careers, properties and savings on the line at US airports.


  • Dr. George
    May 15, 2012 - 11:41PM

    Americans want to keep their country safe. This is their choice.


  • May 16, 2012 - 10:02PM

    Although the growth in the total number Pakistanis studying abroad has slowed since the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001 in the United States, the world’s sixth most populous nation continues to be among the leading sources of foreign students in America, Europe, Australia and new emerging higher education destinations in Asia.

    As the number of Pakistani students in the United States has declined from a peak of 8,644 students (ranked 13th) in 2001-02 to 5,222 in 2009-10 (ranked 23rd), English-speaking OECD nations of the United Kingdom and Australia have become the biggest beneficiaries getting increasing market share of the Pakistan education market. Both nations have benefited in spite of the fact that the UK and Australian visa rejection rates for Pakistanis are higher than for students from other nations.



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